What is “unreasonable behaviour” in divorce?


4th May 2021

"Unreasonable behaviour" could be a multitude of things and mean different things to different people. In reality, what one person considers to be unreasonable might be very different to someone else's way of thinking. "Unreasonable behaviour" is a term often used in divorce to describe a petition relying on someone's behaviour having caused the breakdown of a marriage.

Unreasonable behaviour v adultery

You might say that adultery is the pinnacle of unreasonableness but they are separate in divorce. However, they do have something in common, in that they do not affect financial settlements for a divorce. Both behaviour and adultery are reason to apply for a divorce.

If you are using adultery as the reason to petition for a divorce then that has to be done within six months of discovery of the adultery and has to be admitted (or if not proven, which can be difficult). Often, it is only wise to use adultery when the other person is willing to admit to it in Court.

Defining unreasonable behaviour in divorce

There isn’t a definitive list that the Court would check for unreasonable behaviour. It would be behaviour which the petitioner considers is unreasonable and cannot tolerate. This is something which can arise in most marriages.

If you can’t rely on your partner’s adultery because they haven’t committed adultery or because the time has lapsed, or because they won’t admit it, then the fact of your partner forming a relationship (whether adulterous or not) outside the marriage may be an option you consider using as a basis for a ‘behaviour’ petition.

No fault divorce is also due to be introduced later in 2021, which, if both parties agree to separate, will be another option.

Establishing unreasonable behaviour

With behaviour, you usually have to establish five or six examples, which you, the petitioner, find intolerable and unreasonable. They don’t need to be particularly awful, you have to be able to say that you find them intolerable and unreasonable.

Broad examples of unreasonable behaviour:

  • Lack of love and affection
  • Bad communication
  • Socialising to the exclusion of the other party
  • Financial recklessness
  • Abuse – domestic, verbal, emotional
  • Excessive behaviour – gaming, social media, drinking

Courts are generally accepting of relatively mild particulars these days. In reality the behaviour petition has become a vehicle that people rely on when they can’t rely on adultery or they haven’t been separated for two or more years.

How can Blake Morgan Help?

We have experienced divorce lawyers that can help you through the emotional and delicate situation that is divorce. No matter the grounds for divorce, we are here to guide you down the path that is right for you and ensure you come out the other end in a healthy position. We’ll explain all the options open to you and what course of action would be best. Contact our experts to see what we can do for you.

This article is part of Private Client Issues – May 2021

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