Marriage is a contract which imposes on both parties the obligation to support each other financially. In this it differs from cohabitation. But the extent of the obligation is tested only when the marriage breaks down, a divorce is obtained and the parties apply to the court for financial relief.
In order to obtain a divorce, the husband or wife who petitions has to assert that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, and has further to add the evidence that he or she relies upon. The evidence falls into one of five categories. For an immediate divorce evidence on one of two bases can be used. The petitioner can add to the statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down an allegation of adultery and assert the intolerability of life with the husband or wife. Alternatively, the petitioner can allege unreasonable behaviour, which has to be behaviour which is so intolerable that the petitioner could not be expected to put up with it. In neither case can a petitioner cite the adultery or unreasonable behaviour as evidence of breakdown if he or she has continued living with the respondent for more than six months after learning of the adultery or suffering the unreasonable behaviour.
If neither of these bases is used, couples have to wait until they have been separated for two years from the date of their separation. The fact of separation is evidence of the breakdown provided that the respondent to the petition agrees that a decree shall be pronounced. It is possible, during a period of separation, for a couple to spend time together but that time has to be added to the two-year period and cannot exceed six months.
The same provision applies to the fourth basis for divorce, which is a period of separation for not less than five years. In this case, no consent is required from the other party. In both cases where