Divorce in England and Wales is only possible for marriages of more than one year and if the marriage is irretrievably broken. Although it is possible to defend a divorce, the vast majority proceed defenseless. A divorce decree is first issued “nisi”, that is, (unless the reason is proved later) before it becomes “absolute”. In English law, there is only one “ground for divorce”. That is, the marriage is irreparably broken. Parliament decided that the dissolution of the marriage existing in 1700 was within its competence. However, divorces are granted only in cases where the wife has committed adultery, unless the husband`s adulterous acts are aggravated “by life-threatening cruelty” such as incest. Between 1700 and 1749, only fourteen divorces were pronounced, which gradually increased, with 193 divorces concluded between 1800 and 1857. It was very expensive to get a divorce through parliament, and as such, it was usually only an option for the rich.
Want to know more about upcoming changes to divorce law? Read our complete guide to a seamless divorce process. Wood, Margaret. “Marriage and divorce in the style of the 19th century.” Library of Congress, blos.loc.gov/law/2018/02/marriage-and-divorce-19th-century-style/. Retrieved 21 January 2022. Current UK divorce law states that couples who wish to separate must provide one or more “facts” as evidence. The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 requires one of the following “facts” to prove the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage: Problems arose when the defendants disagreed with the facts used for the divorce and were able to defend the petition. One respondent who defended the application often said that the divorce process can be lengthy and very costly. In some cases, this meant that the court rejected the divorce. The Divorce Reform Act 1969 filed for divorce solely on the ground that the marriage had been irretrievably broken. This could be demonstrated by one or more of the four “facts”, adultery by one of the parties; the conduct of the respondent in such a way that the applicant cannot reasonably be expected to live with them; desertion for two years; and separation for two or five years, depending on whether or not both parties agree to divorce. The law has also been the subject of heated debate, dubbed the “Casanova Charter” by critics, who have argued that it would allow men to marry every five years, leaving an “innocent” woman in a dangerous financial situation. The law was passed despite the controversy involved, and the number of divorces rose again after the amendments, with adultery and irrational behavior being used in particular to show an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
As a divorce and family law specialist, I have often heard clients complain about the divorce process. It`s too slow. It`s too expensive. It`s not fair. The fact is, compared to a few hundred years ago, we don`t really know how lucky we are to have the legal framework for divorce that we have now. World War I also led to a reform of the divorce law. The amendment to the Marriage Act of 1923 put men and women on an equal footing and allowed both parties to file for divorce if adultery could be proven. After World War I, there were reforms to the divorce law that made men and women more equal. The Matrimonial Causes Act of 1923 made adultery a ground for divorce for both spouses.
Previously, only man had been able to do this; Women had to prove additional guilt.   Another 1937 statute (the Matrimonial Causes Act 1937) provided additional grounds for divorce: cruelty, desertion and incurable insanity.  The need for reform was illustrated in the bestselling satirical novel Holy Deadlock (1934). In 1937, the law was changed and divorce was allowed for other reasons, including drunkenness, insanity, and desertion. The sharp increase in divorce rates under the 1969 Reform Act highlighted the need for new legislation. The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 is the foundation of modern divorce law and introduced the five facts mentioned above. It was a departure from the divorce process through no fault of his fault with the reform law. The law also states that a couple must be married for three years before filing for divorce. This period was extended to one year in 1984. In 2013, Michelle Young received £20 million after separating from husband Scot Young. The couple separated in 2012 and Young filed for divorce in 2013, but the decree nisi never became absolute. She stated that she was entitled to half of the couple`s assets, as they had been accumulated as a result of their partnership.
Once the Divorce, Dissolution and Legal Separation Act comes into force in 2020, it will provide for no-fault divorce on its part, when an application for divorce is filed declaring that the marriage has been irretrievably broken, in violation of the aforementioned grounds. The law is expected to come into force in the fall of 2021.  The Matrimonial Causes Act 1937 was a bill of satirist and MP A. P. Herbert. When marriage was considered a partnership of equals, the law extended the grounds for divorce to illegal abandonment for three years or more, cruelty and incurable insanity. However, concessions were made to traditionalist constraints, such as prohibiting divorce during the first three years of marriage, with some judicial discretion.