Are the Reasons for Divorce Made Public?

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When it comes to divorce, one of the most common questions we hear is “will the reasons for my divorce be made public?” This makes sense, as very few people want the details of why their marriage break down to become local gossip.

In fact, the fear of word getting out is often enough to keep unhappy marriages together far longer than they should be, resulting in lost time for both parties.

So, if you are considering divorce, it is important to know exactly what will be made public and what will not. Before we answer the question of what details will be made public, though, let us explore what details you have to give in the first place.

The Current State of Play: Grounds for Divorce

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One of the anxieties of getting divorced is the idea that you are going to have to share pages and pages of details about the highs and lows of your marriage. What if these details are then available online or get left on a train by a Court official?

Well, the good news is this will not happen. Applying for divorce does not require you to describe every difficulty your marriage has encountered. Instead, you will only need to provide a few pertinent facts about whatever reasons you give for wanting a divorce.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, though, let us take a look at the five reasons — also known as facts — that a divorce may be granted. These are:

  1. Adultery
  2. Unreasonable behaviour
  3. Desertion
  4. Separated for two years
  5. Separated for five years

The most commonly used of these grounds for divorce is unreasonable behaviour. When using this reason, applicants must show that one of the parties has caused the marriage to breakdown to the point where it is irretrievable. The reasons for this can range from the mild, such as being antisocial, to the extreme, such as drug use.

While the prospect of explaining unreasonable behaviour can feel daunting, the Court does not demand a huge amount of information. Often you will only be required to provide the Court with four or five paragraphs of explanations as part of your divorce application.

These do need to include specifics that relate to your personal circumstances but you should not feel like you have to give a full history of your marriage. Plus, if both parties agree on the divorce, it is unlikely that the Court will scrutinise the reasons you give since it would be futile to try and keep two people together when they do not want to be.

Of course, how much information you need to provide will depend on which of the five grounds for divorce you use and the specifics of your case. Therefore, you should always consult a solicitor for advice specific to you.

Are the Reasons for Divorce Made Public?

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So, when it comes to applying for a divorce, you do not need to air as much of your dirty laundry as may have thought but what about the details you do include? Will they be made public?

Fortunately,  divorce in the UK has a history of being a private affair. In fact, before 1858, the only way to get a divorce was by a Private Act of Parliament.

While this is no longer the case, the appreciation of privacy in divorce has continued. As such, the reasons for divorce are not made public.

What is almost always publically available is the fact that you have actually been divorced. The decree absolute (commonly thought of as a divorce certificate) can be obtained by anyone, as with marriage or birth certificates.

The question, then, is does the decree absolute contain any sensitive information that you do not want to be made public? Again, the good news is that the reason for divorce is not listed on the decree absolute.

The only specific details that decree does include is the name of the petitioner (applicant) and respondent, along with the date on which the decree was issued. All the other information you provided will be held in a Court file, which is only accessible by you, your ex-partner or either party’s legal representatives.

That means that only you, your ex-partner and any legal representatives will ever know the reasons for your divorce.

What about Court Hearings?

In some cases, particularly if your divorce is defended, you may need to attend one or more Court hearings. At these, you may be required to give further reasons for why you want the divorce.

Family Court proceedings have traditionally been held behind closed doors. That means you should not expect to see your neighbours when you step into the Courtroom. In fact, it means that unless both parties and the Judge are happy with it, no one outside those directly involved in the case is allowed in the room, which includes friends and family.

However, recent changes to the law now mean that divorce proceedings are now open to the media. This can be a worrying prospect but the reality is that divorces rarely attract the attention of the media, save for those of celebrities and restrictions are placed on what can be reported.

If you think media focus is a real possibility, though, you should speak to a solicitor, as an application can be made to the Court to exclude the media, if necessary.

Finally, both you and your ex-partner are required by the Court to keep all information provided within proceedings completely confidential. If this information is shared publicly, then this could be viewed as contempt of court and the offending party could face serious consequences.

So, it does not suit anyone to publicise the reasons for your divorce but, if you are concerned that your ex-partner may break their confidentiality, you should speak to a solicitor as soon as possible.

Should You Wait to Start Divorce Proceedings?

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If you are considering a divorce, the fear that your reasons may be made public should not hold you back. The law and the Courts appreciate that your divorce is a private matter, which is why the details you provide will not be made public.

In the event that divorce may be on the horizon, it is important to appreciate that there is a time limit on when you need to make your application by, depending on the grounds you use.

For unreasonable behaviour, you must petition the Court for divorce within six months from the last incident of unreasonable behaviour, providing you are still living together.

Whatever the reason, once you have made your decision, it is wise not to waste time and speak to a solicitor as soon as possible. So, if divorce is the next step for you, speak to Nayyars Solicitors about how we can help you make the process as simple as possible.

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