Historically the 5 years separation rule was one of five available grounds for divorce in England and Wales, a factor you could use to show your marriage had broken down irretrievably.  If after 5 years both parties were in contact and in agreement regarding the divorce, it offered a quick and easy way to end your marriage.

However, it is no longer possible to submit a divorce application on the grounds of 5 years separation; there is now only one grounds for divorce.  This is an irretrievable breakdown after at least one year of marriage on the basis of:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • Separation for at least two years with the consent of both parties
  • Separation of at least five years without the consent of both parties

So, in answer to the question, there is no longer a 5 years separation rule in divorce in the UK.  If a couple has been married for at least one year, they can begin divorce proceedings.  The only bearing 5 years would have on these proceedings would be if the grounds for divorce was if one party had separated from the other without the consent of their spouse.

If a more amicable path to divorce was being sought, ‘no fault divorce’ could be an option.

Under legislation that came into force in April 2022, the blame element can be removed from a divorce.  Couples no longer have to apportion blame for their spouse’s behaviour, adultery or desertion or for causing them to have been separated for 5 years or for 2 years with consent as long as both parties agree and are willing to make a joint application.

It is also important to note that as there is no blame if you do down this route, the divorce application cannot be contested (unless it’s contested on the grounds of the validity of the marriage or civil partnership).

That said, although an increasing number of couples are choosing to take this more amicable route, statistics show there has been a 31% drop in financial remedy applications since no fault divorce came into being.  This could suggest some couples are choosing this route without taking professional advice on how best to protect their financial position.

As honourable as keeping things as amicable as possible is, couples simply cannot afford to put their finances and other assets at risk by proceeding with their divorce without putting the necessary financial orders in place.  A divorce order alone does not address the financial aspects that arise in a divorce.

If this blog has raised any questions that you would like to discuss with our experienced family law barristers, please contact us today.

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