Within Northern Ireland, you need to have been married for at least two years before you can petition for a divorce. Your marriage must have broken down irretrievably, and your petition must be made on one of the following five grounds.
- This ground can be used when your spouse has committed adultery during the time of your marriage. You must be able to prove that your spouse has committed adultery. If you continue to live with your spouse for more than six months after they have committed adultery, then you cannot use this as a ground for divorce.
- Unreasonable behaviour. You must be able to show that your spouse has behaved in such a way that you can no longer be reasonably expected to live with them. For example, if they have been verbally or physically abusive towards you or if they have alcohol or drug addictions which have made them difficult to live with.
- If your spouse has left you for at least two years without your consent and without cause and it is clear your spouse has no intention of returning, you may petition for divorce on the ground of desertion.
- Two years separation with consent. You can be granted a divorce if you and your spouse have lived separately for two years, provided that your spouse consents to the divorce. You can still live in the same property as your spouse for up to six months, but you must live completely separate lives for example, cooking separately and not spending any time together.
- Five years separation. If you and your spouse have lived separately for five years or more, you can ask the Court for a divorce. You do not need your spouse’s consent for this ground.