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Grounds for divorce: What is unreasonable behaviour?

Grounds for divorce: What is unreasonable behaviour?

There is no such thing as a 'no fault' divorce in England and Wales. As stated in our previous blog 'What is the divorce process', if you have decided to get divorced you will need to demonstrate your relationship has irretrievably broken down. The most common reason used is that your spouse has behaved in such a way that it would be unreasonable to expect you to continue living together. This is also known as unreasonable behaviour. But what constitutes unreasonable behaviour as grounds for divorce?

Before, you decide to use unreasonable behaviour as grounds for divorce it is worth checking if you qualify on other grounds. These include:

  • Your partner has committed adultery and you cannot continue to live with them
  • They have abandoned you for a continuous period of 2 years or more
  • You and your partner have been living separately for 2 years or more and you both agree to the divorce
  • You and your partner have been living separately for 5 years or more

At this point, we should also point out that if you are the person starting the divorce you are known as the 'petitioner'. Your partner would be known as the 'respondent'. This is important because if you are the petitioner you will have to complete more paper work, including giving examples of unreasonable behaviour.

Unreasonable behaviour

You need to prove to the court that your marriage has irretrievably broken down due to unreasonable behaviour. Some examples of this include:

  • Lack of emotional support
  • Violence/physical abuse
  • Verbal abuse
  • Financially irresponsible e.g. failure to support the family, household costs.
  • Lack of support in general, around the house, in your career etc.
  • Gambling on a frequent basis and/or creating debt without your knowledge
  • Drug/alcohol abuse
  • Refusal to discuss/work on issues within the marriage
  • Not wanting to engage in any sexual or physical relations
  • Limited socialising as a couple

As the petitioner, when you file for divorce you will need to give specific examples. This could include:

  • The Petitioner has not had sexual relations with the Respondent since April 2017.
  • The Respondent was verbally abusive to the Petitioner in June 2017 using the words… which caused the Petitioner stress and anxiety.
  • The Respondent has not contributed to the household bills since July 2017 which led the Petitioner to feel…"

If your divorce is amicable you may want to share these examples with your partner prior to submitting them to court. Your partner may even want to write the examples themselves. This can help to avoid conflict and stress, particularly if you have children and will be sharing custody.

If you're considering divorce or have any questions please contact us in London (West Drayton) on 01895 449288 or in Hertfordshire (St Albans) on 01727 840900 or by email via our contact page.

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