Divorce: Australia and the UK Compared

“Our D-I-V-O-R-C-E becomes final today…”

No it doesn’t.

You’ll be pleased to hear that Mrs Bob and I are still happily married and I’m very lucky to have her. She is the best. I just wanted to quote Tammy Wynette, I have no idea why.

What I do know though is that getting divorced in Australia is very different to getting divorced in the UK. As I often like to compare things between Australia and the UK, that’s what I’m going to do today with divorce.


Yes, I know it’s Christmas, but somebody has to be a bitter, grouchy, cave dwelling hermit that hates Christmas, and this year, I thought I’d give it a go myself. Besides, Christmas can be a very stressful time, the information here might help one or two of you out in the new year.

What I am looking at specifically here are the grounds for divorce, not the legal process of filing and completing that divorce through the courts.

Let’s compare those grounds for divorce in Australia with divorce in the UK.

Divorce in the UK

There are five acceptable grounds for divorce in the UK, let’s run through them.

  • Adultery; we know what that is, but to be clear, it specifically means ‘sexual intercourse with someone else of the opposite sex’. I can already see a bit of a loophole in that one. Additionally, you have to act within six months of finding out about that adultery.
  • Unreasonable behaviour; that includes violence, verbal abuse, drunkenness, drugtaking or refusing to pay towards shared living expenses. I suspect then that ‘unreasonable behaviour’ could overcome the loophole I thought I noticed in adultery. Moving on.
  • Desertion; yes, just move out and eventually that will work. You need to be separated for at least two out of the last two and a half years and you both have to agree in writing. If both parties don’t agree, you will need to wait for five years.
  • Separation (pt 1); you can get divorced by separating for at least two years and both agreeing in writing. Separation is possible whilst still both staying under the same roof. This would require you to prove to the court that you just don’t do anything together like shopping, eating, socialising or watching TV. Obviously no shared bedroom or bank account either.
  • Separation (pt 2); you can apply for a divorce if you have been separated for at least five years, yes, I said five years, without the written consent of your spouse.

Seems to me that the bottom three grounds are different ways of saying the same thing, more or less. Whichever one you choose out of those, if your other half doesn’t agree, you’re stuck married to them for five years.

Source: gov.uk/divorce

Divorce in Australia

There is pretty much just the one requirement to get a divorce in Australia, and it’s a lot easier to comply with than any of the grounds given above for the UK. Here it is.

  • Irretrievable breakdown; well, that’s what I’m calling it, I’m not sure it has a name. Simply prove to the court that your marriage has broken down with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. This can usually be shown by simply living apart for 12 months, and like in the UK, you can technically be ‘separated’ while still living under the same roof.

Source: federalcircuitcourt.gov.au

Australia works on a ‘no fault’ divorce system; it is of no interest to the law who is right or wrong, all that counts is that the marriage is no longer working. There aren’t really any grounds to oppose a divorce either, other than claiming there has not been 12 month separation or that the court does not have jurisdiction.

The real battle in Australia is the financial settlement that follows a divorce. The dividing of the assets, the kids, the dog and the awarding of maintenance payments one way or the other, depending on each person’s financial position. But then that’s no different in the UK.

Of course, this is just a brief look, anybody who does want to go down this path whether it be in Australia or the UK should seek the help of a qualified solicitor.

Divorce Australia versus UK; the stats

So, it is clearly easier to get divorced in Australia at the moment than it is in the UK, so do we have a higher divorce rate? Looking online, it seems divorces are measured by the ‘crude rate’. That’s how many divorces there are per 1000 of the population.

I realise that this crude rate isn’t ideal as it takes into account the whole population including children and those who are not married. But it was the only ‘like for like’ figures that I can find for both countries, so we’re stuck with it.

Here are the stats:

  • Australia – 2.0 per 1000 population as at 2017
  • United Kingdom – 1.8 per 1000 population as at 2015

Those figures came from Wikipedia, so I ‘think’ they are correct.

For the record, the US was at 2.9 per 1000 population as at 2017.

Changes in divorce law in the UK and Australia

There is talk of reform of the divorce laws in the UK to make it easier, but nothing is happening yet. Apparently the government has its hands full with a thing called Brexit.

Australia are also looking at changing some of the laws around divorce, but after checking with my local friendly Family Lawyer, she tells me it’s highly unlikely they will make the grounds for divorce any more difficult than they currently are.

So when it comes to divorce, here in Australia ’tis the season to be jolly.

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you all. Let’s hope it’s a good one, and if you are married, I do hope that continues for you happily for many years to come.

Unless, of course, you don’t want it to.

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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Roger Broadley July 11, 2022, 7:10 am |

    Are we talking economically or emotionally? And for whom?

    • BobinOz July 13, 2022, 6:03 pm |

      Easier in terms of the reason for divorce, but economically and emotionally it’s the same.

  • peter December 20, 2019, 9:13 pm |

    Cheaper for me to keep her [smiley face]
    A merry Christmas and a happy new year to you and yours, Bob

    • BobinOz December 24, 2019, 6:35 pm |

      Yes, it’s always the cheapest option 🙂 a very Merry Christmas and happy New Year to you too.

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