Unreasonable behaviour is one of the five facts you can use to prove that your marriage has irretrievably broken down so that you can obtain a divorce.
Of the 90,871 divorces in England Wales in 2018, the most common reason for divorce was unreasonable behaviour. Over 50% of women and 36% of men in opposite-sex marriages cited this as the grounds for divorce in their petition.
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.
Gareth Curtis has been representing me for the last 13 months in a very challenging divorce. At my very first meeting with Gareth, I was immediately put at ease and felt confident that he would achieve the best outcome for me. Gareth has great attention to detail, is very responsive, caring, understanding and remains calm and professional at all times. I would highly recommend Gareth if you are looking for a divorce lawyer who will guide you through the process with ease, whilst fighting for the best outcome. You really are in good hands with Gareth
Client: Ms C
Joanna Newton is always extremely well prepared and aware of the issues which are likely to impact on her client’s goals. Joanna cares a great deal about achieving the right outcome for her clients.
Client: Legal 500
Thank you for the support during my divorce. I am now in a much better place, in all senses. Your support was very valuable psychologically, and was a key element of my survival in the last 12 months.
Client: Mrs L
Stowe Family Law LLP has represented me in regards of my matrimonial matters for the last 8 years. David Milburn, managing partner has worked directly on my case. I would highly recommend Stowe and David to anyone needing dedicated, knowledgable and extremely efficient support with family law matters.
Client: Mr C
Mark Christie provided me with exceptional support throughout a very difficult divorce. His professionalism and robust attention to detail are second to none. He gave me hard facts alongside solid advice and guidance throughout the whole process. His robust and pragmatic approach was reassuring and I certainly felt Mark shouldered the burden of my divorce allowing me to sleep at night knowing I had an excellent solicitor acting for me. I will always be grateful to Mark and would highly recommend him, more so I'm certainly grateful he was in my corner!
Client: Mrs D
I have been working with Mira for around 2 years to finalise my divorce financial settlement. It has been a very difficult time for me personally so it proved reassuring to know Stowe and Mira were handling it on my behalf.
They have been both professional and prompt in our correspondence and meetings. I would recommend them to friends which I believe is the true measure of a company.
Client: Mrs G
Choosing a solicitor when going through a divorce is a very difficult decision. For anybody going through this agonising journey I make but one suggestion...Helen Miller. From the moment I spoke to Helen, I felt secure that she was the right person for the job. Not only her wealth of knowledge and experience, but her kind and empathetic manner put me at ease. Don’t be fooled, Helen is strong willed and will fight your case for you but she knows how to act with the other party to get the best outcome for her clients. Her suggestion of barrister, Simon, was also fantastic and both worked tremendously hard to achieve and secure a financial future for myself and my children. Thank you to Helen and all her colleagues at Stowe, I can not thank you enough for your help and support through the most trying of times.
Client: Mrs C
Excellent and thinks through cases very carefully to make very sound tactical decisions