The common, unusual and downright bizarre reasons for divorce

Divorce | 11 Jan 2019 2

Addicted to running, bullying or controlling behaviour, theme park rides, and the lack of a bathroom door for two years are just some of the recent reasons given in divorce for “unreasonable” behaviour that we have encountered at Stowe Family Law.

There is only one legal ground for divorce in England & Wales: that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This contention must be supported by one of five reasons: adultery, behaviour, 2 years separation with consent, 5 years separation without consent and the very rarely used desertion.

With no-fault divorce yet to be an option in England & Wales, behaviour is becoming increasingly used as an umbrella term for a wide range of different reasons, often very unexpected ones.

So, we asked over 70 specialist Stowe family lawyers: What are the most common reasons behind unreasonable behaviour in divorce?

Here are the ones they hear the most:

  • Addiction issues (alcohol, drugs or gambling)
  • Suspicion of affairs (To cite adultery you need to prove that your spouse has had sex with a member of the opposite sex) or inappropriate relationships with other people.
  • Interference from in-laws and a lack of support from the spouse
  • Not helping with the children or running the home
  • Sex – not enough, too much of or loss of interest
  • Money issues

Sometimes illnesses are the cause of certain types of behaviour including:

  • Post-natal depression
  • Partner’s illness

Whilst it might be hard to see how the other spouse’s illness is unreasonable, it is often the consequential behaviour that comes with illness, when everything just becomes too much, that is the cause of the relationship breaking down.

And what about some of the more unusual reasons our lawyers have encountered:

  • Unusual sexual practices/ fetishes
  • Spying and tracking partner
  • Spouse not completing DIY- no bathroom door for 2 years
  • Being bullied into going on theme park rides
  • Not buying a Christmas present
  • Going to the gym too much
  • Turning vegan
  • Addicted to cycling/running etc

Camilla Burton-Baddeley, a Senior Solicitor from the Stowe Altrincham office explains:

“We are definitely seeing a trend in the more imaginative use of unreasonable behaviour as a reason for divorce.

Previously it was money problems or drinking that would be cited frequently but it can be anything that an individual considers to be unreasonable, even if others do not.”

The number of divorces being granted on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour is steadily increasing. In 2017, unreasonable behaviour was the most common reason for opposite-sex couples divorcing with 52% of wives and 37% of husbands petitioning on these grounds.

Camilla explains:

 “Most people are not prepared to wait two years to get divorced, which is the closest option we have for a no-fault divorce. They have made the decision to move on with their lives and citing unreasonable behaviour means they can start the process quickly.

Until we have the option of no-fault divorce, I believe we will continue to see the definition of unreasonable behaviour stretched even further.”

For advice on all aspects of divorce you contact Camilla at the details below or view her profile.

Camilla advises upon all aspects of family law, including divorce, civil partnerships, matrimonial finance and private law children cases. She has experience in dealing with medium to high net value matrimonial cases and complex children with cases, including those with an international element.

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  1. Andrew says:

    Once upon a time you could not start a divorce within three years unless you could satisfy the court that it was a case of “exceptional hardship suffered by the petitioner or of exceptional depravity on the part of the respondent” – the language dates from 1937 and is redolent of it. (Now it is one year and no exceptions).

    I acted for a chap who played rugby and was big in the Second XV. He got married at the end of the season and his complaint was that by the time the next season began his wife had slept with the entire First XV. She admitted it. She said things had “got out of hand”. I didn’t dare ask what things and whose hand . . . anyway my client got permission.

  2. Rona Perl says:

    I don’t even understand why there has to be a reason. The real reasons are not usually written and the courts don’t care. What if I’m to say my spouse abused me. It makes no difference to my settlement and siting any bad behaviour by the other partner is not looked favourably upon the accuser.

    If there was a reason for the question I would understand. But it’s not a question that is taken seriously. Pls explain if I’m missing the point.

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