The present law on divorce is largely contained in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. This provides the ground for divorce and the financial orders which can be made when a divorce takes place, and sets out the factors to which the court has regard in making these orders.
Divorce proceedings can begin when a couple have been married for at least one year.
Divorce petitions are relatively simple documents and can be bought at law stationers’. Where couples have had short marriages, have no children and have agreed on how their assets should be divided there is no reason why they should not undertake the process themselves, provided they each obtain advice as to their respective financial situations and the desirability of concluding matters with an agreed order which will have the effect of dismissing their financial claims against each other for the future.
Reference has already been made to the fact that although the one ground for divorce is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, it can be evidenced by one of five facts (Chapter 2). Because the majority of divorcing couples cannot afford to wait for a divorce based on two years’ separation, it is more usual to allege unreasonable behaviour or adultery. Happily, in the latter case, it is no longer necessary to name the third party. If it is important to proceed on the evidence of unreasonable behaviour and agreement has been reached on financial questions, it is tactful to ensure that the spouse who is the subject of the allegation sees the document in advance. Allegations which are unexpected can stoke up fires of bitterness.
The behaviour complained of should not consist of a mixture of trivial and serious allegations. The list should be confined to a few