Sorting Fact from Fiction


Sorting Fact from Fiction

When reporting on a ‘celebrity’ divorce the media tell you gleefully that the reason given for the divorce is that the marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down’.  However, this should never be news as it is the only ground for divorce in this country.

There is also an absolute bar on filing the divorce papers with the court until you have been married for at least one year.  So even if a spouse may have the grounds to get divorced within days (or hours) of getting married they cannot start the legal process to end the marriage until they have celebrated the first anniversary of their marriage.

To prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down the Court does need the petitioner (the spouse who files the divorce papers) to satisfy the Court that one or more of the five facts set out in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 has occurred.  These five facts can be summarised as follows, although each has special rules attached to them:-

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Two years separation and both parties consent to the divorce
  • Five years separation
  • Desertion

Because divorce is a private matter, neither the press nor any member of the public is entitled to know which of the five facts are being applied to show the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

Another myth of the media is the idea of a “quickie divorce”. There are no special rules for celebrities in our courts and all divorce proceedings are governed by proving one of the five facts and the same timetable applies to everyone seeking the ending of their marriage.

Once the divorce papers have been sent to the court there will be a period of time before the first official statement that the marriage is to end (called the decree nisi). This is confirmed by the judge in open court and it is these hearings that journalists report on announcing that there is to be a ‘quickie’ divorce. However, no matter how rich or famous the divorcing parties are the petitioner must wait six weeks and one day to apply to the final stage (called the decree absolute) which will legally end the marriage.

Only in the most exceptional of circumstances can a court grant a reduction in the six week and one day rule and certainly the wealth and fame of the parties would not been seen as “exceptional”.

Every divorce is unique and your particular personal circumstances may affect the length of time it takes to complete your proceedings. Our solicitors will take the time to find out what financial settlement will be best for you and take the time to explain the legal process without jargon. We are committed to resolving divorce cases in a constructive and conciliatory manner wherever possible.

The first step should always to take advice on what your options are from the professionals rather than relying on well meaning but often inaccurate or out of date advice from friends or the press.

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