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Grounds for Divorce - ‘Unreasonable Behaviour’

To file for divorce you need to prove there has been an irretrievable breakdown in your marriage and ‘unreasonable behaviour’ serves as one of the five grounds for divorce.
Unreasonable behaviour varies from person to person but examples of the types of unreasonable behaviour often cited within Divorce Proceedings are as follows:

  • Domestic abuse – physical, sexual, emotional, financial

  • Child abuse within the home

  • Your spouse having an inappropriate relationship with another person – whether or not they have actually committed adultery

  • Excessive debt, accumulated without your knowledge or consent.

  • Addictions – drugs, alcohol, gambling

  • Lack of sexual relationship

  • Lack of emotional support

  • Disinterest in your career

  • Disrespectful or undermining behaviour

  • Lack of support in maintaining a household

  • Lack of financial support

Filing for Divorce using the grounds of 'Unreasonable Behaviour'

If you find your partner’s behaviour unacceptable and you can no longer live with them for this reason, then you could file for divorce using the grounds of ‘unreasonable behaviour’ as long as you can provide evidence to this effect if required. You can file using grounds for ‘unreasonable behaviour’ even if living apart, as long as no more than six months has passed since the event took place.

You will be required to make sufficient allegations of unreasonable behaviour by your spouse to persuade the court you are entitled to a divorce on that basis. You cannot seek a divorce by citing your own unreasonable behaviour. You will need to provide examples of the behaviour, and it must be ‘gross and obvious’. If possible, you can try to agree between yourselves which examples to use when submitting evidence to the court. This may not always be possible, dependent upon the circumstances, but it will help if you can achieve this as it will reduce the chance of your spouse defending the petition.

The threshold for unreasonable behaviour particulars is very low and in most cases, citing three of four examples of current unreasonable behaviour will satisfy the Judge that you are entitled to a divorce.  The advantage of proceeding on the basis of unreasonable behaviour is that you can progress the divorce, even if your spouse ignores the Petition. This means that if your spouse is reluctant to address the breakdown in your marriage, the divorce proceedings can get underway even without his or her consent. The act of issuing the divorce proceedings often encourages the other spouse to begin to come to terms with the divorce and to start to look to resolve the financial issues between you. 

Watson Thomas Solicitors are experts in family law and offer a compassionate and professional service that will help you to take positive steps to a happier life. For a free callback, please submit your details and we'll arrange a free, no obligation callback at a time to suit you.


By Rachel Watson, Watson Thomas Solicitors, Fleet Hampshire