Marry in haste, repent at leisure!

running-pic-close-up weddinMarriage is an institution with a long history. Not so divorce, which is a very recent development in historical terms. Hence the expression “marry in haste, repent at leisure”.

Analysis of more than 5 million divorce cases has shown major changes to the grounds cited for divorce over the last 40 years. Citing adultery has fallen whilst unreasonable behavior has dramatically increased.

The analysis by co-operative legal services found that during the 1970s that 28% of divorces were ended on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour in comparison to 47% of recent divorce cases. Whilst 29% of cases cited adultery as a ground for divorce in 1970, this figure has fallen to only 15% now.

The grounds

Aside from the effects of Facebook aka ‘the modern basis of irretrievable breakdown’ the law still applies guidelines which serve as an indication to the court that the marriage is really over.

There are five grounds for divorce in the UK;

  • Adultery,
  • Unreasonable behaviour,
  • Desertion,
  • The parties have lived apart for two or more years and agree to the divorce,
  • The parties have lived apart for five or more years.

It is interesting to note that adultery cannot be cited as a ground for divorce if the infidelity was with a member of the same sex or if the couple has continued to live together 6 months after the other partner found out about the adultery.

Unreasonable behavior is listed as your husband or wife has behaved so badly that you can no longer bear to live with them which could include physical and verbal abuse, nonpayment of housekeeping, drug or alcohol abuse.

Now that’s unreasonable!

One example of unreasonable behaviour given as grounds for divorce was a spouse withdrawing all £40,000 of the family’s savings and burning it in the bedroom!

In another case an irate husband rolled a large oil drum into the family living room and threatened to set it alight and this not surprisingly was regarded by the Courts as unreasonable behaviour!

The grounds for divorce have legally remained the same over the years even though society’s attitude towards divorce has changed quite dramatically, with fewer stigmas attached to divorce.

There was also a belief that divorces were granted generally because of unreasonable behaviour of the husband, however this has changed with men now 5 times more likely to be granted a divorce because of unreasonable actions of their wives than in the 1970s.

The amount of divorce has also changed over the 40 years. In the 1950s there were only around 275,000 divorces in comparison to the 1990s where there were 1.5m divorces.

The current law in the United Kingdom dates from the Divorce Law Reform Act of 1969 which introduced the idea of the undefended divorce. A divorce with a speedy nature, seen today, virtually as a paper exercise with many thousands being granted a Decree of Divorce in this way.

These days of course very many people do not marry at all but if they do obtaining divorce is much more straightforward with all of the arguments these days revolving principally around property and money (and Facebook)!