29 October 2018
We were on a break…?
A celebrity divorce is in the news once again, following the pronouncement of decree nisi on behalf of Lisa Armstrong and her husband, TV Presenter, Ant McPartlin.
The papers have stressed that the relationship broke down due to Ant’s adultery, making him intolerable to live with. However, what the papers haven’t identified, is that this is the legal requirement whenever a person wishes to issue divorce proceedings based upon the fact of adultery. The press also haven’t made it clear that the adultery can occur following a separation, and that it need not be the reason for the final breakdown of the marriage.
There is actually only one ground for a divorce, which is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. In order to be granted a divorce this needs to be supported by one of five facts which, put simply, amount to:
- Adultery and the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with their spouse;
- Behaviour such that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with their spouse;
- Desertion for a continuous period of at least 2 years;
- Living apart for a continuous period of at least 2 years and the spouse consents; and
- Living apart for a continuous period of at least 5 years.
Although it is not unusual for a petition to be filed on the factor of adultery, on this occasion if appears to have been based on adultery that occurred post-separation which is not widely known as ‘divorceable’ behaviour.
There is no required/legal distinction between the act(s) of adultery occurring before or after separation. Not all separated couples immediately live in separate properties (for practical or financial reasons) so the distinction is not so clear cut in many marriages. The only requirement is that the couple do not return to living together ‘as a couple’ for a period(s) exceeding 6 months after discovering the adultery. This is to demonstrate to the court that the marriage is not reconcilable.
Ant McPartlin admitted committing adultery with an unnamed woman since separating from his Lisa Armstrong earlier this year after 11 years of marriage, which enabled the petition to proceed to the next stage (decree nisi) more easily.
The tabloids in this case (and in many others) announced that the pair have been ‘granted a divorce in 30 seconds’ which follows newspapers’ perpetuated belief in ‘quickie divorces.’ This is misleading. When the Judge pronounced decree nisi on Tuesday in this matter, it may or may not have taken 30 seconds. However, the pair are still legally married until the court grant their decree absolute. It is this document which will confirm that Lisa and Ant are divorced. Lisa may apply for decree absolute 6 weeks and 1 day after decree nisi has been pronounced.
‘Divorce in 30 seconds’ may sound like it should be the working title to a Hollywood B-movie, but the legal system is a long way off to making such a process a reality, if ever.
It is likely that a lot of work by the couple and their legal team went into reaching the decree nisi stage of their divorce, as well as the judge’s review of the various documents. Now that decree nisi has been pronounced, the court have jurisdiction to make a financial order and it is likely that the couple and their lawyers will now turn their minds to this issue which may have been running alongside these divorce proceedings.