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Matrimonial Causes Act 1973

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Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, Section 1 is up to date with all changes known to be in force on or before 23 September 2020. There are changes that may be brought into force at a future date. Changes that have been made appear in the content and are referenced with annotations. Help about Changes to Legislation

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Changes and effects yet to be applied to Section 1:

  • s. 1-7 repealed by 1996 c. 27 Sch. 10 (This amendment not applied to legislation.gov.uk. Entries in Sch. 10 repealed (13.5.2014) without ever being by 2014 c. 6, s. 18(2)(j))

Changes and effects yet to be applied to the whole Act associated Parts and Chapters:

Whole provisions yet to be inserted into this Act (including any effects on those provisions):

1Divorce on breakdown of marriage.E+W

[F1(1)Subject to section 3 below, a petition for divorce may be presented to the court by either party to a marriage on the ground that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

(2)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 (hereafter in this Act referred to as “two years’ separation”) 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 (hereafter in this Act referred to as “five years’ separation”).

(3)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.

(4)If the court is satisfied on the evidence of any such fact as is mentioned in subsection (2) above, then, unless it is satisfied on all the evidence that the marriage has not broken down irretrievably, it shall, subject to [F2section 5] below, grant a decree of divorce.

(5)Every decree of divorce shall in the first instance be a decree nisi and shall not be made absolute before the expiration of six months from its grant unless the High Court by general order from time to time fixes a shorter period, or unless in any particular case the court in which the proceedings are for the time being pending from time to time by special order fixes a shorter period than the period otherwise applicable for the time being by virtue of this subsection.

[F3(6)Only conduct between the respondent and a person of the opposite sex may constitute adultery for the purposes of this section.]]

[F1(1)Subject to section 3, either or both parties to a marriage may apply to the court for an order (a “divorce order”) which dissolves the marriage on the ground that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

(2)An application under subsection (1) must be accompanied by a statement by the applicant or applicants that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

(3)The court dealing with an application under subsection (1) must—

(a)take the statement to be conclusive evidence that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, and

(b)make a divorce order.

(4)A divorce order—

(a)is, in the first instance, a conditional order, and

(b)may not be made final before the end of the period of 6 weeks from the making of the conditional order.

(5)The court may not make a conditional order unless—

(a)in the case of an application that is to proceed as an application by one party to the marriage only, that party has confirmed to the court that they wish the application to continue, or

(b)in the case of an application that is to proceed as an application by both parties to the marriage, those parties have confirmed to the court that they wish the application to continue;

and a party may not give confirmation for the purposes of this subsection before the end of the period of 20 weeks from the start of proceedings.

(6)The Lord Chancellor may by order made by statutory instrument amend this section so as to shorten or lengthen the period for the purposes of subsection (4)(b) or (5).

(7)But the Lord Chancellor may not under subsection (6) provide for a period which would result in the total number of days in the periods for the purposes of subsections (4)(b) and (5) (taken together) exceeding 26 weeks.

(8)In a particular case the court dealing with the case may by order shorten the period that would otherwise be applicable for the purposes of subsection (4)(b) or (5).

(9)A statutory instrument containing an order under subsection (6) may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.

(10)Without prejudice to the generality of section 75 of the Courts Act 2003, Family Procedure Rules may make provision as to the procedure for an application under subsection (1) by both parties to a marriage to become an application by one party to the marriage only (including provision for a statement made under subsection (2) in connection with the application to be treated as made by one party to the marriage only).]

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