Divorce Reform Act 1969



Divorce Reform Act 1969

1969 CHAPTER 55

An Act to amend the grounds for divorce and judicial separation; to facilitate reconciliation in matrimonial causes; and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid.

[22nd October 1969]

B e it enacted by the Queen's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:—

S-1 Breakdown of marriage to be sole ground for divorce.

1 Breakdown of marriage to be sole ground for divorce.

After the commencement of this Act the sole ground on which a petition for divorce may be presented to the court by either party to a marriage shall be that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

S-2 Proof of breakdown.

2 Proof of breakdown.

(1) The court hearing a petition for divorce shall not hold the marriage to have broken down irretrievably unless the petitioner satisfies the court of one or more of the following facts, that is to say—

( a ) that the respondent has committed adultery and the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the respondent;

( b ) that the respondent has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent;

( c ) that the respondent has deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition;

( d ) that the parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition and the respondent consents to a decree being granted;

( e ) that the parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least five years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition.

(2) On a petition for divorce it shall be the duty of the court to inquire, so far as it reasonably can, into the facts alleged by the petitioner and into any facts alleged by the respondent.

(3) If the court is satisfied on the evidence of any such fact as is mentioned in subsection (1) of this section, then, unless it is satisfied on all the evidence that the marriage has not broken down irretrievably, it shall, subject to section 4 of this Act and section 5(5) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1965 , grant a decree nisi of divorce.

(4) For the purpose of subsection (1)( c ) of this section the court may treat a period of desertion as having continued at a time when the deserting party was incapable of continuing the necessary intention if the evidence before the court is such that, had that party not been so incapable, the court would have inferred that his desertion continued at that time.

(5) For the purposes of this Act a husband and wife shall be treated as living apart unless they are living with each other in the same household.

(6) Provision shall be made by rules of court for the purpose of ensuring that where in pursuance of subsection (1)( d ) of this section the petitioner alleges that the respondent consents to a decree being granted the respondent has been given such information as will enable him to understand the consequences to him of his consenting to a decree being granted and the steps which he must take to indicate that he consents to the grant of a decree.

S-3 Provisions designed to encourage reconciliation.

3 Provisions designed to encourage reconciliation.

(1) Provision shall be made by rules of court for requiring the solicitor acting for a petitioner for divorce to certify whether he has discussed with the petitioner the possibility of a reconciliation and given him the names and addresses of persons qualified to help effect a reconciliation between parties to a marriage who have become estranged.

(2) If at any stage of proceedings for divorce it appears to the court that there is a reasonable possibility of a reconciliation between the parties to the marriage, the court may adjourn the proceedings for such period as it thinks fit to enable attempts to be made to effect such a reconciliation.

The power conferred by the foregoing provision is additional to any other power of the court to adjourn proceedings.

(3) Where the parties to the marriage have lived with each other for any period or periods after it became known to the petitioner that the respondent had, since the celebration of the marriage, committed adultery, then,—

( a ) if the length of that period or of those periods together was six months or less, their living with each other during that period or those periods shall be disregarded in determining for the purposes of section 2(1)( a ) of this Act whether the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the respondent; but

( b ) if the length of that period or of those periods together exceeded six months, the petitioner shall not be entitled to rely on that adultery for the purposes of the said section 2(1)( a ).

(4) Where the petitioner alleges that the respondent has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with him, but the parties to the marriage have lived with each other for a period or periods after the date of the occurrence of the final incident relied on by the petitioner and held by the court to support his allegation, that fact shall be disregarded in determining for the purposes of section 2(1)( b ) of this Act whether the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent if the length of that period or of those periods together was six months or less.

(5) In considering for the purposes of section 2(1) of this Act whether the period for which the respondent has deserted the petitioner or the period for which the parties to a marriage have lived apart has been continuous, no account shall be taken of any one period (not exceeding six months) or of any two or more periods (not exceeding six months in all) during which the parties resumed living with each other, but no period during which the parties lived with each other shall count as part of the period of desertion or of the period for which the parties to the marriage lived apart, as the case may be.

(6) References in this section to the parties to a marriage living with each other shall be construed as references to their living with each other in the same household.

S-4 Decree to be refused in certain circumstances.

4 Decree to be refused in certain circumstances.

(1) The respondent to a petition for divorce in which the petitioner alleges any such fact as is mentioned in paragraph ( e of this Act may oppose the grant of a decree nisi on the ground that the dissolution of the marriage will result in grave financial or other hardship to him and that it would in all the circumstances be wrong to dissolve the marriage.

(2) Where the grant of a decree nisi is opposed by virtue of this section, then,—

( a ) if the court is satisfied that the only fact mentioned in the said section 2(1) on which the petitioner is entitled to rely in support of his petition is that mentioned in the said paragraph ( e ), and

( b ) if apart from this section it would grant a decree nisi,

the court shall consider all the circumstances, including the conduct of the parties to the marriage and the interests of those parties and of any children or other persons concerned, and if the court is of opinion that the dissolution of the marriage will result in grave financial or other hardship to the respondent and that it would in all the circumstances be wrong to dissolve the marriage it shall dismiss the petition.

(3) For the purposes of this section hardship shall include the loss of the chance of acquiring any benefit which the respondent might acquire if the marriage were not dissolved.

S-5 Power to rescind decree nisi in certain cases.

5 Power to rescind decree nisi in certain cases.

Where the court on...

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