Can I get a divorce after being separated for ten years?

The law is very clear. Contrary to popular belief, there is only one permissible reason to grant a couple divorce. The irretrievable breakdown of their marriage. Where the confusion comes in is that for a marriage to be deemed to be irretrievably broken down, at least one of five qualifications must be met:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • Two years separation with consent
  • Five years separation (no consent required)

When it comes to the term ‘separation’, the law is very clear, and it is essential that you fully understand what, concerning marriage, what separation means, and the difference between separation and desertion.


Desertion in a marriage

Desertion in a marriage is where one or other spouse abandons the other, leaves the marital home, and absolves themselves of all moral, familial, and financial responsibilities. 

Desertion often includes a total lack of contact, in any form, but this is not part of the definition. While it is normal to have to wait five years to obtain a divorce on the grounds of separation where the divorce is not mutually sought, you can apply for a divorce on the grounds of desertion after two years. 

However, there is one additional element that separates desertion from separation, and that is the deserted person’s ability to prove that their abandonment came with the full intent of their spouse to divorce them. As this is difficult to prove, few divorces are granted on the grounds of desertion.

Separation in a marriage

Separation is very different to desertion, and for several reasons. First, many couples reunite after a period of separation. To a degree, a period of separation can be seen as the divorce alternative to an engagement. 

Separation is not seen as an intent to divorce, though it is required as one of the reasons for proving that a marriage has broken down irretrievably.

Separation invariably involves one spouse moving out of the family home as it is notoriously difficult to prove you have been separated if you still live together.

Separation does not exclude continued financial responsibility or the parenting of children. 

Separation is also divided into two categories, and it is dependent on which type how swiftly you can get divorced. 

Types of separation

The first category is separation by mutual consent. This invariably occurs when both spouses mutually agree that the marriage is no longer working and that it would be best for everyone concerned, to live apart. Providing that arrangement remains mutually acceptable, then after two years apart, you may legally apply for a divorce on the grounds of the marriage’s irreversible breakdown. The mutually agreed separation is the proving qualifier the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

Regrettably, and distressingly, some marriage separations are not mutually agreed upon and result from the motives of one person acting alone. In such circumstances, the law relating to divorce differ. If the separation was not a mutually agreed-upon decision, either spouse could still instigate divorce proceedings. However, rather than having to wait only two years to get a divorce, you will have to wait five years.

So, in answer to the question of whether or not you can get divorced after being separated from your spouse for ten years, the answer is yes, you can get divorced.

Key Takeaway

If you find yourself in a position where you wish to get divorced but are not sure if you meet any of the qualifications required, here at, our divorce solicitors will be able to provide you with all the correct information you need for you to make a well-informed decision concerning your marriage.

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