How to use five years separation as the grounds for divorce

Originally published on 28th September 2018 at 10:20 AM
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No-fault divorce was introduced in England and Wales on the 6th of April 2022 which removes the need to choose one of the five facts to support the 'irretrievable' breakdown of a marriage. All the information below is applicable to the previous system, and divorces that were issued before the 6th of April 2022.

You can read more about this change in our no-fault divorce guide

There are five ‘facts’ in English and Welsh law that you can rely upon to prove your marriage or civil partnership has broken down past the point of repair. The definitions of these facts can be confusing, this blog explains what the five years separation fact is and how to use it for divorce (for marriages) or dissolution (for civil partnerships).

How to submit for divorce using five years separation?

How is ‘five years separation’ defined in England and Wales?

In English and Welsh law, five years separation is defined as you and your ex-partner having been separated for at least five years. This means you must have been physically separate (living apart, sleeping separately and keeping your finances (bills etc) separate for at least five years).

If you are not sure if five years separation is the best grounds to use, read our blog on the 'facts' or 'grounds for divorce/dissolution' in England and Wales.

Does my partner have to agree?

No, your partner doesn’t have to agree to start divorce proceedings if you are using five years separation as the reason. However, you must be able to provide an address for your partner, so that the court can send your ex the divorce/dissolution petition.

If your ex doesn’t agree, this will slow down the process. For more tips to speed up your divorce, read our quick divorce blog.

Tip1: If you want to have an amicable separation, discuss the grounds for divorce with your partner first. See which grounds for divorce they would be more comfortable with. By including your partner in the process, you are more likely to reduce acrimony later on.

How do you start five-year separation divorce proceedings?

  • Decide how you’ll get divorced or dissolve your civil partnership. Are you going to do it yourself or will you need someone to help?
  • You will also need to send a copy of your marriage/civil partnership certificate (in English).
  • You may also need to pay the divorce court fee which is £550.

Tip 2: Check if you’re eligible for a discount on the government court fee by using our free court fee calculator.

What if I’m not in contact with my ex?

If you’re not in contact with your ex, you will still need to demonstrate to the court that you have tried all reasonable means to find them. For example; contacted relatives, their place of work and last known address. If you can demonstrate to the court you have done this and are still unable to find them you can apply to ‘dispense with service’ - this is the process of proving to the court that you’ve tried everything in your power to get an address for your ex-partner’. If you think this applies to you speak to one of our experts by booking a free 15-minute call to find out about our ‘missing spouse service’.

How long does it take?

This depends on your personal situation and whether you’ve already agreed on plans for childcare and financial arrangements. You can complete this divorce timeline to get a bespoke answer.

In general, it usually takes around four-six months to divorce or end a civil partnership. Beware of companies promising quick divorces within 12 weeks as this just isn’t possible due to the workload of most divorce centres.

Are online divorces faster?

There are advantages and disadvantages to having an online divorce. If you or your partner aren’t particularly tech-savvy, an online divorce may not be the best choice, or the fastest if you’re going to do it yourself.

How much does it cost?

Divorce is rarely completely free. You may need to pay the court £550 to process your divorce. However, you may be eligible for discount on these fees, just click here to find out if you're entitled to a discount.

So aside from the court fees, you have a choice about how you divorce. To work out what’s best for you, it’s worth speaking to us and we’ll talk you through the options to divorce.

If you're looking for tips on how to save money on your divorce, you can read our blog on how to keep the divorce cost down.

How does five years separation affect the divorce/dissolution paperwork?

The petition:

If five years separation is used as the grounds for divorce/dissolution, then you need to include the date you stopped living together as a couple.

The acknowledgement of service:

If you are using five years separation as the 'fact' to rely on, you do not need consent of your ex. The acknowledgement of service form must be completed by the respondent (the person responding to the petition), however they do not need to agree to the grounds. They may choose to defend the divorce, and this may impact the cost and time it takes.

The decree nisi:

The decree nisi is the middle stage of the divorce and includes the D84 and D80 form. If you have used five years separation, the D84 form is the same regardless of the grounds, however, the D80 form changes depending on the grounds used. For five years separation, it’s the D80 E form.

Tip 3: Remember to include your’s and your ex’s address history on the D80 E form, so that the court know you have not lived together as a couple since separating.

The decree absolute:

The decree absolute application does not alter based on the grounds used. If you would like to read more about the divorce process we have a helpful guide on how to submit for divorce.

If you have any questions, or would like some support, please book a free 15-minute call with one of our experts here.


How long do I have to be separated to divorce?

You must be separated for a minimum of two years if you’ve got the consent of your ex, or five years if you don’t. Alternatively, you can use unreasonable behaviour and note the separation as an example of unreasonable behaviour.

How long do you have to be separated before you get an automatic divorce?

There’s no such thing as an automatic divorce, however, if you’re separated for over five years, you don’t need the consent of your ex to use the grounds for divorce of five years separation.

What to do if your partner disputes that you have lived apart for five years?

You may need to prove it. You can prove this by showing household bills/ information of when you/they moved out. You can also look into amending the petition and changing the reason for divorce to one of the other options.

How long does divorce take if the other party doesn’t agree?

If your ex won’t sign the divorce/dissolution paperwork, this will likely slow down the process. This also depends on the grounds for divorce. For example, if you use two years separation, you need your partner’s consent, so if they won’t sign, you’ll have to submit an amended petition using a different reason.

Is UK divorce law the same as English divorce Law?

UK law describes four different legal systems in the UK. When we talk about England and Wales, we are generally talking about the English and Welsh legal system. Scotland and Ireland have completely different legal systems. The divorce laws, therefore, change depending on which legal system is used.

Start your amicable divorce journey

Speak to an amicable Divorce Specialist to understand your options and next steps for untying the knot, amicably.

Book a free 15-minute consultation

Comments (13)

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Aida Macias
28.02.2018 22:13

I am separeted 7 yrs.can I marry here in states, my name is Aida Luy macias

Hannah Hodgkinson
28.02.2018 22:13

Hi Aida, thanks for getting in touch. You will still need to get a divorce, even if it has been seven years – let us know if you need any more help.

Sean Davies
30.09.2018 11:04

How much will I have to pay as kids live with me and get child and working tax credits

Hannah Hodgkinson
30.09.2018 11:04

Hi Sean – if you’re referring to how much you’ll need to be pay in court fees, you can check here. If you’d like support with your divorce, you can read more about our pricing here.

George Roberts
23.10.2018 10:14

Hi I’ve been separated from my wife for nearly five yrs and I’ve said many times for a divorce she said she would do it then nothing it’s getting stressful what can I do

09.01.2019 19:36

I have a question on my long divorice I have been going threw this divorice for 3 years my x had changed lawyers 3 tines we are still in the settlement part and nothing had been signed if this divorice goes on for 5 years will I get nothing in my settlement there’s a business involved a house of 35 years inheritance money I was married for 35 years plus a stay home house wife that worked little but I do have a college degree which I got later in life I will take any advice on my situation thank you

10.01.2019 22:00

I separated from my husband nearly 8 years ago due to adultery on my part, he now wants to file for divorce citing adultery as the reason, can he still do this after being separated for so long? Many thanks.

Bev Hunter
17.04.2019 17:05

Hi I commenced divorce proceedings in 2014. Can I recommence proceedings based on that petition changing to 5 years separation? Thanks

26.04.2019 23:12

Hi I'm seperated from me ex we were married. We have had no contact what so ever and have been seperated for just over 5 years now . Does this mean the marriage is ended. As I want to marry my new partner in USA. I married my ex in UK.

07.11.2019 20:19

How do you prove that you have been separated for 5 years ie what’s to stop the ex from denying this as they don’t want a divorce to be spiteful?

26.02.2020 6:58

Shared house mortgage She hasn’t paid a penny in the five years since she left Is she still entitled to half the house

08.06.2020 22:19

My partner's ex is very bitter and spiteful over him leaving even though they had not had a relationship for around 15 years. He moved in with his parents nearly 3 years ago but he doesn't share any bills. In case his ex plays up when five years are up, he won't be able to prove he has lived there. His parents didn't approve of him leaving either so they may not want to support him. What should he do?

01.02.2022 1:09

I have been separated for over 10 years amd my wife lives in Spain and has no address in the UK. WIll the divorce still be under UK law?