What You Need to Know about Divorce During Lockdown

With the UK on an extended lockdown, those living in what were already strained marriages prior to the pandemic may be finding their situation at home with their spouse particularly challenging. Some spouses may be considering their options and this article is designed to give some guidance.

What Is the Ground for Divorce?

There is one ground on which a petition for divorce may be presented to the court by either party to the marriage; that is, that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. The spouse applying for the divorce (the petitioner) must satisfy the court of one or more of the five facts below:

  1. Adultery and intolerability – whereby a spouse has committed adultery and the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with him or her.
  2. Behaviour – where a spouse has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the other spouse.
  3. Desertion – where a spouse has deserted a petitioner for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition.
  4. Two years separation and consent whereby the parties to the marriage must have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years, and the other spouse consents to a decree being granted.
  5. Five years separation – the parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least five years immediately preceding the petition.

Those who are finding it extremely difficult to live with their spouse due to their behaviour during lockdown may wish to apply for a divorce based on a behaviour petition. Whether a person ‘cannot reasonably be expected’ to live with their spouse is subjective and, therefore, the court must make a judgment about the other spouse’s behaviour and its effect on the petitioner.

What Does the Court Consider When Dealing with Divorce Cases?

Each case depends on its own facts but, typically, the court will look for three to six examples of behaviour – usually the first, worst and last. This will ensure that the length of time that the behaviour was suffered has been established, the major incidents included and when the latest example occurred.

The type of conduct that can be included will always depend on the particular circumstances of the case. This includes physical violence; verbal abuse such as insults, threats and nagging; demanding sexual intercourse too often or not agreeing to intercourse at all; and intimate relationships with people of the same or opposite sex. Cruelty and failure to provide money or food as well as failure to provide affection or attention, will also meet the criteria.

In the case of Birch – v – Birch (1992), the wife’s main complaint against the husband was that he was dogmatic and dictatorial with nationalistic, male chauvinistic characteristics, which she had resented for many years. The court granted the divorce and acknowledged that the wife’s nature made it unreasonable for her to continue living with him.

SAS Daniels Can Help

Our experienced family lawyers are working remotely and can continue to advise and assist you in the process of separation and divorce. We always ensure that we maintain a tailored approach to meet your needs and give you practical advice regardless of what the situation may be.

The Family Courts are still dealing with divorce petitions, so it is possible to start the divorce process immediately. Alternatively, you may wish to wait until the stay at home rules have been relaxed or lifted before taking action.

If you would like to seek legal advice on your current situation, please contact Claire Porter in our specialist Family Law team on 01244 30526 or email [email protected]