by Dakota Murphey
Being married is much more than an emotional commitment; it is also a legally binding contract that you’ve both entered into. This is important to remember if you and your partner are considering breaking up. At this point, it is highly recommended that you seek the advice of an experienced divorce solicitor who can explain the ins and outs of the process of separating and help you petition for divorce, if that is what you wish. If you’re not quite there yet, or would like to know more – there is a great deal of useful information in the ‘further reading’ guides of this divorce lawyer’s page, here:
In order to obtain a divorce, you must first prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, citing one of these 5 reasons:
· 2 years’ separation with consent
· 5 years’ separation without consent
· Unreasonable behaviour
Interestingly, unreasonable behaviour is the most commonly used ground for divorce in England and Wales. If your marriage is at breaking point and you wish to petition using this reason, you need to know whether your spouse’s behaviour can be deemed unreasonable in the eyes of the law.
What constitutes unreasonable behaviour?
When petitioning for divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour, the court will generally look for 3-4 types of unreasonable behaviour that have contributed to the breakdown of your marriage. These specific incidences may have happened 6 months before your separation, or they could be happening while you’re still together and have not separated.
What exactly is deemed unreasonable will be a personal and subjective thing that is different for each divorcing couple. That said, each behaviour will have to be compelling enough to convince a District Judge that you can no longer stay married to your spouse because of the unreasonableness of his/her behaviour.
It is essential that your allegations of unreasonable behaviour are specific to your personal circumstances. As this is a fault based divorce, you cannot use your own behaviour; the behaviour you cite in the divorce petition relate must relate to your spouse.
Examples of unreasonable behaviour
Here are some typical examples that you can use to divorce your spouse on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour:
· Your spouse has stated repeatedly that s/he no longer loves you, causing you distress.
· Your spouse has consistently shown no interest, and made no effort, in socialising with you, preferring to socialise alone with friends.
· Your spouse has not slept in the same bed as you since [date], causing you distress.
· Your spouse refuses to engage in physical or sexual relations with you.
· Your spouse has formed an improper relationship with someone whose identity is unknown.
· Your spouse has been physically abusive towards you or has threatened violence.
· Your spouse has been verbally abusive towards you on several occasions, causing you distress.
· Your spouse is financially irresponsible and has failed to maintain you and/or your children properly during your marriage.
· Yours spouse drinks to excess and, when under the influence of alcohol, behaves unreasonably or aggressively.
· Your spouse has been gambling to excess, having on several occasions caused you distress by running up large gambling debts and deplete the family savings.
· Your spouse refuses to discuss your marriage problems with you.
· Your spouse refuses to try and resolve your marital issues and continues to behave unreasonably.
As a useful starting point, it may help to compile a list of all the actions and behaviours displayed by your husband or wife that come to mind that could be deemed unreasonable. Behaviour can range from very serious issues including violence and drug abuse to general behaviour such as not spending enough time together. If your marriage is in trouble, you may be surprised to find that it may not take you long to draw up a long list!
If you are hoping to keep your divorce amicable, it is advisable to explain the examples of unreasonable behaviour that you’ve written in your divorce petition to your spouse. While communication with your ex-partner is always helpful, it may also give your husband or wife the opportunity to perhaps amend some of the examples to make them sound less harsh. It’s worth playing the long game. Getting your spouse’s cooperation is crucial in effecting a smooth and amicable divorce agreement.