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Same Sex Marriage and Divorce

Same-sex marriage is now legal in all parts of the United Kingdom, following Northern Ireland’s decision to legally recognise same-sex marriage earlier this year.


What is same-sex marriage?

Same-sex marriage is the marriage of two people who have the same gender. It can be entered into in both a religious ceremony (see below) and a civil ceremony.


The same-sex marriage law in England and Wales

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill received Royal Assent under the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government in July 2013.

The Act enabled same-sex couples to marry in civil ceremonies, as well as religious ceremonies (where the religious organisation has ‘opted in’ to conduct the ceremonies).

It also meant that those who had entered into a civil partnership were able to convert their civil partnership into a marriage, should they wish to do so.

As well as allowing same-sex marriage, the Act also enabled those who wished to change their legal gender to do so, without having to end their marriage.

Same-sex marriage


When same-sex marriage was legalised

Same-sex marriage has been recognised and performed in England and Wales since March 2014.

The first same-sex weddings took place on 29 March 2014.


Where is same-sex marriage legal

Same-sex marriage is legally recognised and performed in a number of different countries throughout the world, including the UK, France, Germany, Ireland and Spain.


Same-sex marriage and divorce

Until no-fault divorce becomes a reality in England and Wales, it is necessary to prove that a marriage has irretrievably broken down and give one (or more) of five reasons or ‘grounds’ for divorce:

• Unreasonable behaviour
• Adultery
• Desertion
• Separation for 2 years or more (consent from the other party necessary)
• Separation for 5 years or more (consent not necessary)

Adultery can only be grounds for divorce when sexual intercourse takes place between a man and a woman. Adultery cannot be used as a reason for divorce if the sexual intercourse is between two people of the same sex. However, rather strangely, if one person in a same-sex marriage has sexual intercourse with a member of the opposite sex, then this would be grounds for divorce, as it would fall into the legal definition of adultery.

If one party in a same-sex marriage had sexual intercourse with a member of the same sex who was not their spouse, it is likely that the party petitioning the divorce may be able to apply for a divorce citing unreasonable behaviour as grounds for divorce.

Many argue that this outdated system does not reflect the way society views marriage and should be changed to keep up with both societal views and same-sex marriage legislation. If – or more likely when – the no-fault divorce law is passed, this should hopefully put an end to this rather bizarre rule, which affects same-sex marriage divorce in what seems to be an unfair way.


Other articles that may be of interest to you?

How long does a divorce take?

What is the divorce process?

When is decree absolute granted in a divorce?

Decree Nisi – What does this mean in a divorce?

What are the first steps to divorce?

Is a cheap divorce really possible?


How can our expert divorce solicitors help you with divorce

Our expert family law solicitors can help you with a range of legal issues relating to divorce, including:


Contact our expert divorce solicitors for advice on divorce

For more information call our divorce solicitors on 0845 862 5001 or email

Our expert family law solicitors offer a nationwide service. We have client meeting office facilities available, in order to have face-to-face client meetings / conferences as and when required in:

Leeds Office: St Andrew House, The Headrow, Leeds, LS1 5JW

Wakefield Office: Market Walk, Wakefield, WF1 1QR

Halifax Office: Old Lane, Halifax, HX3 5WP

Huddersfield Office: Northumberland Street Huddersfield, HD1 1RL

Coventry Office: Warwick Road, Coventry, CV1 2DY

Canary Wharf Office: 25 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5LB

Please contact us for more details.

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06th March 2020

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