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Depp’s divorce – why it couldn’t happen here

Film star Johnny Depp's marriage has hit the rocks with wife Amber Heard filing for divorce citing 'irreconcilable differences' - a term commonly heard by UK divorce lawyers even though these grounds don't actually exist in British law!

Celebrity confusion

High profile stories about celebrity breakups in America have led to a common misconception that 'irreconcilable differences' are grounds for divorce in the UK and divorce lawyers have to spend a lot of time clearing up this point when couples come to them for advice.

In fact, in this country, there are just five different reasons to start a divorce - unreasonable behaviour, adultery, two years separation with consent, five years separation without consent and desertion.

Mix up

Unreasonable behaviour is the most common ground for divorce in the UK and probably the one most often confused with irreconcilable differences even though the two are actually very different.

In the US, filing under "irreconcilable differences" generally means that there is no hope that the couple will be able to work out their problems and save the marriage. It is is a no-fault grounds for divorce, which means neither party committed any sort of extenuating act, such as adultery, abandonment or cruelty. In other words, no-fault divorce is just like it sounds—no single party is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage.

However, to obtain a divorce on the ground of unreasonable behaviour, English law insists that not only has the marriage broken down irretrievably but that one of the parties to the marriage has behaved in such an unreasonable manner that the other finds it intolerable to live with him or her. Or, at least, that is what it requires if divorce is sought on the ground of unreasonable behaviour.

Getting it straight

For help and advice on divorce contact one of our family and divorce lawyers.