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Am I automatically divorced after 5 years?

Am I automatically divorced after 5 years?

There is a common perception that you can get divorced after 5 plus years of separation, without your spouse having the opportunity to see and/or comment on the divorce papers. This is just a myth; there is no such thing as an automatic divorce.

Put simply, if your relationship has broken down and you have lived apart for more than 5 years, you cannot simply divorce your husband or wife without their knowledge. Currently in the UK it takes approximately 6 months to complete the divorce process and obtain the Decree Absolute. When going through this process, it is also advisable to finalise financial matters between you and your estranged spouse.

Five facts for divorce

To get divorced, you need to show that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. Under current divorce law, the Petitioner needs to rely upon one of five facts. It does not matter which fact you use; you still need to complete the same process in order to get divorced. Whilst, 5 years separation without consent, is one of the facts, you can rely upon, there are four more, which are:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • 2 years separation with consent

Grounds for divorce

If you have been separated for 5 years plus and there is an agreement to divorce from both you and your partner, it can be a quick and easy way to end your marriage whilst minimising hostility or blame. However, there can be complications to using this fact if you don’t have an address for your spouse, or if they are unlikely to cooperate. But it’s important to know that even without their consent or agreement, a divorce can be granted when based on 5 years separation if:

  • Your ex-partner won’t cooperate or disagrees
  • You don’t have an address for your spouse, but you have evidence that you have done your utmost to find them

Financial issues

Sarah Ingram, Solicitor in Alsters Kelley Family Law Department said. “Whatever you do, if your relationship breaks down, don’t forget to get your finances sorted out. A number of financial claims arise automatically between spouses after they divorce and without an order of the court dealing with those claims, there is the potential for those claims to remain live many years, even after your decree absolute.

Furthermore, and before that decree absolute is granted ending your marriage, if you are separated and not divorced, your ex could benefit from your estate following your death.

After any change in personal circumstances, we always recommend that you review your will and make any necessary changes. Our Wills, Probate and Tax team are on hand to help you in any way that they can – simply drop them a line and they will be able to talk you through the process.”

Free initial meeting for support and advice

We have a vast amount of experience in the many and varied issues which arise as a result of separation following marriage and when individuals have lived together without marrying. We offer a free 30-minute appointment where we can support and guide you in the right direction. And thanks to our network of offices covering Leamington, Coventry, Nuneaton and Southam we are very accessible too. For timely and quality advice, please contact Sarah Ingram on 01926 356016 or email to make your appointment today, alternatively please visit



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