Getting a Divorce? On what grounds?

divorce-cake“Divorce isn’t such a tragedy. A tragedy’s staying in an unhappy marriage, teaching your children the wrong things about love. Nobody ever died of divorce.”   

This may be something I read in a cheesy chick book, but there’s a lot of truth in it!

Sometimes, for one reason or another, marriages just don’t work.
It is an unfortunate statistic that here in Northern Ireland, one in four marriages ends in divorce

Many people, particularly older generations, feel that divorce has become somewhat ‘fashionable’ these days and that it is too ‘easy’ for couples to get divorced.

Whilst some could argue that there may be a little truth in that given the statistics, it is by no means the case that any Tom Dick or Harry (or their female counterparts!) can simply get a divorce.

What do I need to show before I can get a divorce?

In Northern Ireland, in order to get a divorce, you firstly need to have been married at least 2 years to your spouse.

This doesn’t mean that you are compelled to continue living with your spouse for a full 2 years – you can of course live separately. However you will not be in a position to apply (or as it’s called in the profession ‘petition’) for divorce until you’ve been married at least 2 years.

Then, either you may be able to petition for divorce so long as they can show that their marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down.’

The ‘grounds’ for divorce

There are five ‘grounds’ for divorce – one of which you must satisfy in order to get a divorce.

  1. Unreasonable Behaviour

To get a divorce on this ground, you need to show the Court that your husband’/wife has behaved so unreasonably that you can no longer be expected to live with them.

Types of unreasonable behaviour are wide ranging and can include, for example, physical or verbal aggression, lack of communication, financial control or misconduct and addictions.

  1. Adultery

In order to petition for divorce on the ground of adultery, you need to show the Court that your husband/wife has committed adultery during the course of the marriage.

The person with whom your partner had the affair can be joined and named in the Divorce Petition also.

  1. Two Years Separation With Consent

This is available where both you and your partner have lived separately for more than two years and your partner consents to the divorce. You can have been living in the same property during this time but must have lived independently to one another. This can happen where, for example, you both live in the same house but have separate bedrooms and would not cook or clean or spend time with one another.

  1. Desertion for Two Years

This occurs is where your partner has effectively ‘deserted’ you. This ground is technically difficult to prove and is very rarely relied upon in divorce proceedings.

  1. Five Years Separation

This ground is available where you and your partner have lived separate for more than five years. You do not require your partner’s consent on this ground.

Many people think that the law surrounding divorce is outdated – that if you are able to freely enter into a marriage, you should be able to freely get out of it again, without the law dictating how and when you can do this.
As it stands at the moment though, any person wishing to divorce their partner in Northern Ireland will need to satisfy one of the grounds above.
We would be interested to know your thoughts on this –
Perhaps you have been unable to get divorced yet because you do not presently satisfy any of the grounds?
Maybe you think that having criteria in this way to restrict divorce is a good thing?? Please let us know your views on this topic below.

If you need any further information on divorce please contact us or feel free to leave a comment below.

Women’s Aid: Don’t Silence the Violence

Here is a short film entitled ‘Don’t Silence The Violence’ that was launched by Women’s Aid Antrim, Ballymena, Carrickfergus, Larne and Newtownabbey (ABCLN) last year to raise awareness of domestic violence.  

It’s aim? Quite simply to challenge and break down the barriers that result in women staying in abusive relationships and keeping silent about their abuse. 

Check out our article on domestic abuse for help in getting protection from an abusive partner or contact Claire or Karen for assistance.

Domestic Violence – The Facts

domesticviolenceHere is a guide to the options available to you if you are in an abusive relationship…

What is Domestic Violence?

Despite what many people think, abuse from a partner is not limited to physical harm – a whole range of controlling and abusive behaviour can constitute domestic violence including the following:-

  • Threatening behaviour
  • Verbal abuse
  • Psychological abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Financial control
  • Emotional abuse

I am in an abusive relationship – what can I do?

If you are suffering domestic abuse in your relationship, you are not alone. The good news is that there is protection and help available which can go some way to help you break free from your abusive relationship:-

Police protection

The police treat domestic violence very seriously and have dedicated domestic abuse teams.   It is important that you contact the police immediately if you have suffered abuse from a partner – they are liable to be arrested for any offences committed against you and face a criminal sentence if convicted.

Court protection

You can also apply to the Court for legal protection against your abuser under legislation called the Family Homes and Domestic Violence Order (NI) 1998.

The Court can make two types of Order against your abuser:-

Non-Molestation Order

This is an Order that your abuser cannot molest, harass, pester, use or threaten violence against you. It means that they cannot harass you directly (in person, by text, phone, email or social media) and they also cannot get someone else to harass you on their behalf.

Occupation Order

This is an Order that the Court can make if you live with your abuser or if they have some right to reside in your home (for example, if they are on the tenancy agreement or a joint owner). If the Court grants you an Occupation Order against your abuser, this means that they can be removed from your home and barred from returning to it.

The Courts can also make an exclusion zone, excluding your abuser from a particular place, for example from the street you live in or your place of work.

These Orders can be made on an emergency basis if there has been an incident of abuse within the past 7 days.

If the Court makes Orders in your favour, these are served on your abuser by the police and take effect once served. It is a criminal offence to breach any of these Orders and the police have powers to arrest a person for breaching a Non-Molestation Order.

Support services

If you are suffering from domestic violence, you may need ongoing emotional and practical support and help to break free from the relationship. There are a number of organisations available to provide such assistance, such as the Domestic and Sexual Violence helpline (0808 8021414) Women’s Aid, the Men’s Advisory Project and The Rainbow Project.

With the help of the police, legal system and support services, you do not have to suffer in silence. With the right advice and support, you can escape an abusive relationship and move forward to a happier and healthier life.