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Unreasonable behaviour

Using unreasonable behaviour can be a quicker way to end your marriage (as opposed to waiting for the minimum period of 2-years separation).

If you feel that unreasonable behaviour may be a justification for your divorce, talk to a family and divorce lawyer at Stowe today.

Everything you need to know about unreasonable behaviour

  • What is unreasonable behaviour?

    Unreasonable behaviour is one of five accepted reasons for a breakdown in a relationship, and legally justifies a divorce. Almost any behaviour that the petitioner (the person issuing the divorce petition) finds to be unacceptable and cannot be reasonably expected to live with can amount to unreasonable behaviour.

    If the behaviour complained of is of a serious nature, then only one allegation may be enough. On the other hand, if the behaviour is not particularly serious then the court is likely to require more than one allegation, to be satisfied that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

    According to the laws of England and Wales, there are specific conditions that apply to each of the five above grounds for divorce. For this reason, it is always advisable to seek the advice of a qualified family law solicitor before taking any action – this ensures you have a legal reason for divorce prior to starting proceedings.

  • How to claim unreasonable behaviour

    The first step in unreasonable behaviour divorce is to list your spouse’s behaviour which you allege is unreasonable and wish to use to support your divorce application.

    This can be a difficult task for any number of reasons. It may be that you remain on good terms with your spouse and so do not wish to increase tensions by making inflammatory remarks; perhaps it is unpleasant to have to relive or recount some of the challenging times during your marriage, or maybe there are so many examples that you can’t narrow it down to just a few.

    Case law has suggested that the appropriate test for behaviour is ‘unreasonable’ is whether a “right-thinking person” would come to the same conclusion. Whilst there is an element of objectivity to whether the behaviour is (or isn’t) reasonable, the court should consider this in the context of the specific couple in question: is it reasonable for this spouse to continue to live with the other spouse?

    This explanation is important because it helps shape the wording that can be used for the allegations of unreasonable behaviour in the divorce petition.

  • Before you file for an unreasonable behaviour divorce

    If you want to make the divorce as amicable and collaborative as possible, it is worthwhile discussing the allegations with your spouse.

    They may provide you with the wording that they would find acceptable, or you might consider sending them the draft wording to comment on before it is sent to the court and forms part of the formal paperwork.

    These suggestions are only relevant to those divorces which are unlikely to be defended. If you suspect your spouse may argue that you are not entitled to a divorce, you should seek specialist advice as the above will not be appropriate.

  • How to word an allegation of unreasonable behaviour

    Whilst you can include as many allegations of unreasonable behaviour as you want, three or four are likely to be sufficient. This will vary depending on the severity of the allegations.

    The allegations do not need to be so specific as to include times, dates and a stage-by-stage account of what happened. Including such specific examples can be needlessly inflammatory. For example, the wording:

    “At 3.34pm on 27 January 2021, I was walking to Tesco so that I could buy some eggs when my spouse shouted at me from across the road and called me a b***h.”

    Would be better replaced with:

    My spouse has been verbally abusive towards me. 

    Beyond that, a brief reference to how the behaviour made you feel shows the impact it had on you and why you believe it is unreasonable. For example:

    My spouse has been verbally abusive towards me, which makes me feel upset and unloved.

    Try not to include any reference to your unreasonable behaviour and do not try to justify your spouse’s actions–doing so will only lead to the judge questioning whether you believe that their behaviour has been unreasonable.

    Describe behaviour that is relatively recent or ongoing. If you refer to your spouse’s actions from several years ago, the judge will be forced to consider whether this is sufficient to progress the divorce. They might question the unreasonableness of the behaviour given that your relationship continued for many years after.

How long does it take to get an unreasonable behaviour divorce?

It is surprising to many but there can be time limits to using unreasonable behaviour in a divorce.

You can only file for a divorce petition based on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour after a minimum of 12 months of marriage.

If you continue to live together after the last incident of behaviour or after the petition has been issued and for more than 6 months, the Court may ask for some more details about your living arrangements when you apply for decree nisi, as the Judge will want to be satisfied that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

Unreasonable behaviour: who pays?

Some people believe that behaviours will affect how the financial assets of the marriage will be split, however, this is rarely the case. Generally, grounds for divorce are irrelevant when it comes to financial settlements.

Unreasonable behaviour vs no-fault divorce

The current use of unreasonable behaviour in divorce petitions has been questioned.  Most family lawyers feel that by forcing allegations and ascribing blame for the breakdown of the marriage introduces unnecessary or additional animosity. This makes it less likely that the parties will be able to agree on other arrangements for any dependent children and a financial settlement. No-fault divorce is due to come into effect in April 2022.

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