By Carla Fraser
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Divorce - The Grounds and Costs Associated

What is a Divorce?

To be eligible for a Divorce in Northern Ireland, the Petitioner (applies for Divorce) and Respondent (receives Divorce) need to have been married for at least two years. In Northern Ireland, for a Divorce to be issued, the Petitioner must show that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and there is no prospect of reconciliation. To prove this, one of five grounds must be satisfied. The legislation which governs Divorces in Northern Ireland is the Matrimonial Causes (NI) Order 1976.

Grounds for Divorce

The grounds for divorce are outlined under Article 3 of the Order. It is important to distinguish the grounds for Divorce as this will have an impact on the costs associated with Divorce. Depending on the ground, if the Petitioner or Respondent do not agree or dispute the grounds, it will cost more money. The process will also be slightly longer if there are financial assets, property or children which are separate matters.

Fault based grounds:

  1. Adultery

The Petitioner must show that the Respondent had voluntary sexual intercourse or contact since the date of marriage. The Petitioner must name any co respondent or person with whom they allege their spouse has committed adultery with. These Petitions are often dismissed, as the Respondent will usually not admit to the allegations.

The following may evidence adultery:

  • Living with a new partner

  • Birth of a child to Respondent

  • Any other applicable proof

  • Desertion

Desertion arises when the parties have been separated for 2 years before issuing the Petition. This ground consists of intentionally ending cohabitation without the consent of the spouse. Essentially, one spouse abandons the other and there is no reasonable excuse for doing so.

  • Unreasonable Behaviour

This is the most common fault ground for divorce compared to adultery and desertion. It is important to know that adultery can be listed as an example of unreasonable behaviour. It is not whether the behaviour is unreasonable but rather that the Respondent is behaving in such a way that the Petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with him or her and to continue living with them and being marriage to them would place the Petitioner in an intolerable situation.

This is a subjective ground, and some examples include adultery, alcoholism, violence, anti-social behaviour, drug abuse, gambling, and unreasonable sexual demands.

For fault based grounds, often the Respondent is responsible for costs.

Non fault-based grounds:

  1. Two years separation with consent

This is a common non fault ground and arises when the Petitioner and Respondent live apart for a continuous period of at least two years before the Petition is issued. It is common that the Respondent consents to this ground for Divorce as it is non fault. If both spouses are living in the same house but separated, they need to show that they are not living a communal life and maintaining separate bedrooms.

The Petitioner and Respondent often split the costs 50/50 in relation to Divorce Proceedings.

  • 5 years separation

This ground is available where both spouses have lived apart for a continuous period of 5 years before the Divorce is issued. It is important to note here that consent from the other spouse is not required for the Divorce.

In this situation, the Petitioner is not entitled to any costs from the Respondent regarding the Divorce proceedings

What next?

Based on the information you provide, the divorce is petitioned on one/ or more of the above grounds and it is then issued to the court.

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