How to divorce on grounds of Unreasonable Behaviour
Unreasonable behaviour is one of five grounds used to get a divorce in England and Wales. To divorce on grounds of unreasonable behaviour, you must show that the conduct of your spouse is such that it is unreasonable to expect you to live with them. In legal terms, the marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down’.
This means that you are unable or simply not willing to remain in a marriage with your spouse. Your relationship cannot be retrieved and has come to a definite end.
If you can convince the courts that your marriage has irretrievably broken down, they will permit you to divorce.
When giving the evidence, you cannot use your own behaviour. It must be the behaviour of your spouse. You will need to provide the court with several written examples of your spouse’s unreasonable behaviour. You should describe their behaviour, when it took place and how the behaviour made you feel.
To divorce for unreasonable behaviour, you need to be married for at least 12 months. This makes unreasonable behaviour the quickest ground for divorce, followed by two years of separation with consent.
What follows is everything you need to know about how to divorce on unreasonable behaviour grounds.
We will also provide advice on how you can keep your relationship amicable throughout the divorce process. Keeping your divorce amicable is important because it results in a faster, less costly and less stressful divorce.
What is unreasonable behaviour?
Excessive drinking, jealousy or domestic violence, are all examples of unreasonable behaviour. However, it is important to note that the court doesn’t insist on severe allegations of unreasonable behaviour to grant a divorce.
Relatively mild allegations are usually good enough examples of unreasonable behaviour. Mild examples include spending too much time at work or on a leisure activity, pursuing a separate social life and not having sex.
If you want a quick and low-cost divorce, it is best to agree on the details of unreasonable behaviour with your spouse. This reduces the chance of disagreement and your spouse defending the claim.
What are the most common examples of unreasonable behaviour?
The most common examples of unreasonable behaviour are:
- Lack of support
- Not sharing household chores and parental responsibilities
- Problems with in-laws
- Moodiness, belittling, or constant moaning
- Lack of sex
- Financial recklessness
- Living separate lives
- Spending too much time working / on a hobby
How many examples of unreasonable behaviour do I need to give?
To get a divorce for unreasonable behaviour grounds in England and Wales, you need to give the court four to five examples.
The reasons must be specific to your relationship and be the behaviour of your spouse, not yours.
Quite often, couples simply drift apart. If this sounds like you, think about using some of the milder examples of unreasonable behaviour:
My spouse doesn’t help out around the house and expects me to do all of the housework, which makes me feel undervalued.
My spouse works long hours, leaving me to feel very lonely.
My spouse ignores me all of the time, which makes me feel that I’m on my own.
My spouse dislikes my parents, and we don’t seem them often, which makes me feel isolated.
Do I have to use legal jargon when divorcing on grounds of unreasonable behaviour?
To divorce on grounds of unreasonable behaviour, there are a couple of rules that you must follow, but they are not complicated.
The person who starts the divorce is known as the Petitioner, and your spouse becomes the Respondent. You need to use these names to describe you and your spouse when you give your examples of unreasonable behaviour.
You need to give four or five specific examples of what the behaviour was, when it happened and how it made you feel.
The Respondent stopped doing all household chores in February 2020 and expects the Petitioner to do all of the housework, which makes the Petitioner feel undervalued.
It can take some time to get used to writing your unreasonable behaviour examples. If you’re unsure about what and how to write them, get in touch.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does the severity of the unreasonable behaviour affect a divorce settlement?
It is a common misconception to think that there is a link between any financial settlement and the severity of your husband or wife’s unreasonable behaviours during the marriage. This is not the case.
What judges do pay attention to, is the welfare and needs of any children from the marriage if they receive a financial consent order.
Will my unreasonable behaviour allegations be made public?
The details of your divorce are only visible to the Petitioner and the Respondent, any legal representatives either party has and the court staff. The grounds for divorce and examples of unreasonable behaviour that you provide are not available to the public.
Are there any time limits when divorcing on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour?
If you still live with your spouse, you must file for divorce within six months that the last incident of unreasonable behaviour took place.
You can file for divorce after six months if one of you has moved out of the marital home. It would be best if you didn’t wait too long as this may result in you having to file for divorce based on separation grounds.
Divorcing on separation grounds can take between two and five years, depending on whether your spouse agrees to a divorce.
What happens if the Respondent disagrees to my claims?
No one likes to read something negative about them, so when a respondent receives the divorce petition, the natural impulse is to defend the divorce because they disagree with the allegations.
It is for this reason that we recommend that where possible, couples who decide to divorce on unreasonable behaviour grounds agree on the examples in advance.
If you can’t or feel uncomfortable discussing and agreeing on the examples of unreasonable behaviour, there is an alternative.
On the acknowledgement of service form they receive from the courts, the Respondent can tick a box that states they disagree with the allegations, but they will not contest (defend) the divorce.
The courts tend to take the view that if one party believes that the marriage has broken down, then it has. This means that choosing to defend a divorce based on unreasonable behaviour is costly, time-consuming and rarely successful.
What happens if the Respondent ignores the divorce papers?
If the Respondent has ignored the divorce petition, you can instruct bailiffs to serve the Petition. Once the Respondent has acknowledged the divorce petition, the divorce can proceed without the agreement of your spouse.
What happens if the Respondent says they intend to defend the case?
If the Respondent says they are going to defend the case, wait for 29 days from the date they say they received your Petition. If after 29 days you have not received a copy of their defence, (called the ‘answer’) you can proceed as if they are not defending the Petition.
If the Respondent submits the answer, you will need the help of a solicitor.