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Can I divorce my partner for unreasonable behaviour?

This is a common question we get from our clients, particularly where they have not been separated for the requisite periods of time such that they could not seek a divorce on these facts or where the other party has not committed adultery or deserted them. In these circumstances, petitioning on the basis of unreasonable behaviour is the only fact available to them unless they wish to wait to divorce.

What is classed as unreasonable behaviour in divorce?

To obtain a divorce it must be show that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This can be evidenced by petitioning on the basis of unreasonable behaviour and is a two-part test, which requires:

  • one of the parties having behaved in an unreasonable manner; and
  • the other party finding it intolerable to live with them.

This is a subjective and objective test; what this means is you have to consider whether any ‘right-thinking person’ would come to the conclusion that one party had behaved in such a way that the other party could not reasonably be expected to live with the other party.  In coming to a conclusion, regard must be had to all the circumstances and the personalities of the parties.

Unreasonable Behaviour Divorce Examples: What are the eligible reasons?

Accordingly, it is not a particularly high threshold to surpass.  Examples of unreasonable behaviour include:

  • not helping around the house;
  • spending too much time at work;
  • not socialising with the other person;
  • being financially controlling; and
  • not showing affection.

It is not enough that you no longer love each other, therefore it is important that the examples of behaviour you are seeking to rely on are sufficient to satisfy the court that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

How to cite unreasonable behaviour examples during divorce proceedings

As members of Resolution, we advise clients to include examples of behaviour which are as anodyne as possible. Inflammatory language should be avoided and it is good practice to try to agree the examples of behaviour with the other party, before issuing the petition at court.  This is because it is possible to oppose a petition on the basis of unreasonable behaviour, which can be costly for both parties and is unnecessary given that the divorce proceedings have no impact on the finances. Unfortunately if you know that your spouse intends to defend the petition regardless of how reasonable you try to make it, then it may be necessary to use more serious example of behaviour in order to ensure that your application for divorce is successful.

It is important to note that if you cohabit for more than six months following the last incident of behaviour relied upon, the court will take this into account.  This does not necessarily mean that the petition will be refused, however increases the possibility of them not allowing the petition to proceed.  Any periods of less than six months cohabitation will be disregarded.

If you would like to speak to one of our family law specialists about divorce or other family matters please contact us.


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