Experts reveal the most common reasons for divorce

We spoke with a group of successful legal and psychology professionals to get their feedback on your common questions related to why people get divorced.

By Esta Pinto

Drawing from a wealth of collective experience, this expert panel discusses some of the most common reasons for divorce they’ve been privy to in their careers.

We talked with a total of five lawyers and one clinical psychologist, all of whom spread some light on these top reasons for divorce, to allow us to understand what people are thinking about when they’re looking to go down this road. We’ve followed this with professional advice from our Principal Lawyer (Perth), Anna Carr, on what steps to take next. Keep reading to learn more.

The top reasons for divorce explained 

Business experts talking about most common reasons for divorce

Colleen Respondek, Clinical Psychologist 

  • Couples may grow apart or discover they were not, or are no longer, compatible. They may have developed different goals.
  • While some couples may still have strong feelings for each other, their values may be too dissimilar for them to develop or maintain a strong friendship bond within the marriage over time. In this case, they may stop liking or respecting each other. When this occurs, communication ultimately breaks down.
  • If one partner seriously breaks the other partner’s trust either through infidelity, secrecy or lies, marriages frequently end.
  • Addictions and gambling problems and domestic violence, or other forms of abuse are frequent reasons for divorce.

Mental health issues and the difficulties associate with long-term illnesses can end in marriage breakups.

Ongoing conflict and difficulties with in-laws that remain unresolved over time may also result in the end of a marriage.

Head of Family Law at Australian Family Lawyers, Canberra

I have seen clients whose relationships have broken down because of cheating, financial abuse or distrust, but commonly I see people separate because they no longer make time for each other, grow apart or lose the relationship to children and/or gender roles.

Associate at Australian Family Lawyers, Brisbane

I have seen various circumstances where parties have gotten divorced, including but not limited to:

  • One or both parties have cheated;
  • One party has come forward about being gay;
  • The parties no longer share the same interests or goals;
  • The parties’ children have left home, and the parties are no longer able to get along without other people living in the house;
  • Domestic violence; and
  • A party loses trust in one party, for example, discovering the other party has gambled significant joint funds, have incurred significant tax debts or run the family business inappropriately.

Head of Family Law at Australian Family Lawyers, Adelaide

In my experience, many clients seek legal advice about separation due to irreconcilable differences with their spouse, communication breakdown, or a breach of trust such as infidelity. 

Charlotte Monaghan, Practice Leader at Australian Family Lawyers, Sunshine Coast (Maroochydore and Caloundra)

All relationships are different, and people separate/divorce for various reasons; however, the most common reasons that I see in my practice are lack of communication, infidelity, domestic violence and other issues, including alcohol/drug use. 

Vanessa Hernandez, Head of Family Law at Australian Family Lawyers, Brisbane

Many reasons. Anything ranging from falling out of love, conflict, issues with relatives of their spouse, mental health reasons, addiction issues, affairs, domestic violence reasons.

Head of Family Law at Australian Family Lawyers, Sydney

Marriage breakdown. Some reasons include because the marriage was so toxic, they wish to remarry or estate planning considerations.

What steps to take next?

If you’re wondering what next steps to take, understanding the warning signs and common reasons for divorce may help you actively seek to repair and reconcile with your partner and work on your relationship or marriage before it’s too late. For further reading on this, you may find our article on what to do if you’re having second thoughts or regrets about divorce helpful. 

Otherwise, keep reading for advice from Principal Lawyer at Australian Family Lawyers, Perth, Anna Carr, to understand what other actions a couple can take from here on:

1. Firstly…

“We look at firstly whether the parties may be able to attempt a reconciliation. In these cases, a box of chocolates and a bunch of flowers is cheaper than the parties going down the path of separating, establishing two households and terminating the financial relationship between them.”

2. If not?

“In the event one or both parties have emotionally, intellectually and physically detached from the relationship so that it is unlikely they will reconcile, the parties will separate.”

3. What the law requires

“Where the parties have been married for less than two years the law requires that they attend counselling and obtain a counselling certificate if they wish to proceed with the divorce application.

The parties can apply for a divorce in 12 months and one day from the date the parties separated.

Separation can take the form of living separately under the same roof or alternatively the parties no longer living together and moving into separate residences.”

4. Get legal advice

“We recommend a party considering separation or who has recently separated obtains independent legal advice regarding his/her/their specific factual circumstances and entitlements. We recommend that where possible, the parties either enter into an agreement regarding financial issues or if no agreement is possible, one party commence court proceedings for orders regarding property settlement and/or spousal maintenance.”

5. Once the 12 months and one day from the separation has run its course:

“Once the parties have entered into an agreement regarding financial issues or alternatively commenced court proceedings, then after the expiration of 12 months and one day from the date of separation they may apply for divorce.

The reason for a party to approach their separation and financial settlement before divorce in this order is that the parties will become time-barred from commencing proceedings regarding financial issues such as property settlement and spousal maintenance after 12 months from the date the divorce becomes absolute. 

Any application to terminate the financial relationship between the parties where orders are sought regarding financial issues such as property settlement and/or spousal maintenance made outside of this time will require the leave of the court, which may or may not be granted.

Hence, before a party commences an application for divorce, we recommend that the party obtain independent legal advice which relates to the parties’ specific circumstances.

In cases where property is held in the joint names of the parties, it is in the best interests of the parties to have orders made by consent or otherwise transferring or dealing with such property before the expiration of 12 months from the date of divorce.”

6. Consider preparing a new will

“We also recommend parties who have separated consider preparing a new will which includes a special clause in anticipation of divorce. Marriage and divorce invalidate a prior existing will, whereas separation does not.

By reason of the time bar, if a party has made a significant initial contribution, the property is in that party’s name and the marriage was a short one, then it is in that party’s interest to apply for divorce, after 12 months and one day after separation. This way the ball is in the other party’s court, so to speak if they wish to pursue an agreement or otherwise.”

Read more about the top reasons for divorce in our recently released industry report.

If you’re seeking independent legal advice, no matter what stage of separation or divorce you’re in, call our friendly team or request a call back via the form below.

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