Modern divorce, as we know it, has been around since the 1850s. Prior to that time divorce was the preserve of the wealthy and powerful, such as Henry VIII who is perhaps one of the most famous historical divorcees.
The main legislation which governs the law today is the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (MCA 1973). Some argue that the law should be modernised to reflect the society that we live in today. Under the MCA 1973 there is only one ground for divorce, that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. This essentially means that there is no prospect of a reconciliation. The person issuing the divorce, known as the petitioner, must evidence the break down by using one of five facts:
1. that the respondent has committed adultery and the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the respondent;
2. that the respondent has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent;
3. that the respondent has deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition
4. that the parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition and the respondent consents to a decree being granted;
5. that the parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least five years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition.
The majority of family lawyers support a change in the law to allow couples to simply agree to divorce on a "no fault basis". The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill has unfortunately been halted due to the dissolution of Parliament and the forthcoming election.
Those wishing to divorce amicably can speak to family lawyer to determine the best way to proceed prior to the re-introduction of the no-fault divorce bill in the future.
The right to divorce means having the right to end your marriage. In the UK, this right is available to any couple who have been married for a year or more.