Get me a Divorce

My husband is moody, argumentative and has unreasonable behaviour, lawyers, can you get me a divorce? These are the exact questions asked by the wife in a high-profile divorce case and petitioned the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom to grant her divorce.

The law in relation to divorce is governed by the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. Divorce is only granted where a claimant can prove that the relationship is irretrievably broken down. If you are a newly married couple and your relationship is broken down irretrievably you must bear this in mind that you cannot submit a divorce petition before your first wedding anniversary.

Irretrievable breakdown

The applicant has to prove that the relationship is irretrievably breakdown and has to establish one of the following five conditions in order to obtain a divorce.

  1. Adultery: The applicant must prove that the other party has committed adultery and the applicant finds it intolerable to live with the other party.
  2. Unreasonable behaviour: The applicant has to prove that the other party (respondent) has behaved in such a way that the applicant cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent.
  3. Desertion two years’: The third condition is desertion for two years and the applicant must establish that the respondent has deserted the applicant for a continuous period of at least two years.
  4. Separation with consent; The fourth condition is that the parties (husband and wife) have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years and the respondent consents to a divorce.
  5. Five years’ separation. Finally, the applicant can also apply for a divorce where he/she has lived apart for a continuous period of at least five years.

In the cases where the petitioner has established these grounds for divorce and provided satisfactory evidence, the court will award decree absolute and marriage will officially end.

However, in a recent landmark case, a wife asked the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom to grant her a divorce on the grounds that her husband is moody, argumentative and she is unhappy with him.

The couple was married in 1978. They started living separately in 2015. The wife filed for divorce in 2015 and alleged that their marriage had broken down irretrievably due to the unreasonable behaviour of her husband. She provided examples of unreasonable behaviour including that the husband had been moody and argumentative and had disparaged her in front of others. Making the matters complicated for the wife, husband contested the divorce but crucially did not deny the facts that he is moody and argumentative.

The Supreme Court dismissed her appeal and found that the claims of unreasonable behaviour were significantly exaggerated. It also pointed to the fact that there is no scope of no-fault divorces under the current law and the wife had to remain married to the husband for the time being.

No- fault divorce system currently exists in Scotland, Australia and the USA. However, there are no such provisions in the English Legal System. This decision means that one cannot obtain a no-fault divorce in England and Wales. The mere facts that somebody is moody or argumentative, does not provide enough grounds for a divorce, especially where the other party insists on living together. Consequently, the unhappy wife has to wait until 2020 (Five years’ separation rule) to obtain a divorce.

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