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In England and Wales there is only one ground for divorce: that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. Unfortunately the system is based on fault, that is, having to make an allegation against the other party to the marriage.

This one ground for divorce can only be proved in one of 5 ways: for an immediate divorce either that the other party has committed adultery or has behaved unreasonably. The other facts that can be used are desertion for 2 years (not often used), 2 years separation and the other party’s consent or 5 years separation.

The divorce procedure is started by filing out a form called a divorce petition which is sent to the court with the court fee, marriage certificate and, if there are children, a form called a statement of arrangements for the children. A copy is then posted to the other party who has to fill in and return to the court a short questionnaire called an acknowledgement of service which the court then copies to the petitioning party. The latter then has to swear an affidavit saying that the petition is true and then asks the court to progress matters. If happy with the paperwork the court arranges a date for pronouncement of the decree nisi and at the earliest, 6 weeks later, the petitioner can apply for the decree absolute which is the document which formally ends the marriage in law.

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