The law surrounding the ability to divorce your spouse is clear cut. There are five legal reasons why you are allowed to divorce your spouse, one of which must be met. Divorcing your spouse simply because you want to is insufficient grounds.
- Your spouse has committed adultery
- Your spouse has deserted you
- You have been separated for a minimum of two years, and your spouse agrees with the request for divorce (mutual, consensual separation)
- You have been separated for a minimum of five years (non-mutual consensual separation)
- The behaviour of your spouse can be classified as ‘unreasonable.’
Is unreasonable behaviour often cited as a reason to get a divorce?
The answer is yes. More people use this as a reason to get divorced than any other, including adultery. According to the Office of National Statistics, in 2018 in England and Wales, 36.8% of all husbands and 51.9% of all wives petitioning for divorce cited unreasonable behaviour.
What is unreasonable behaviour?
Unlike adultery or desertion, sometimes unreasonable behaviour is not so cut and dried. What may appear to be unreasonable behaviour to one person may be seen as acceptable to another, even if it is still seen as being unpleasant or disrespectful. Identifying unreasonable behaviour is more subjective and open to interpretation. However, let us begin with clear cases of unreasonable behaviour.
- Domestic abuse, whether verbal or physical. Verbal abuse would be where your partner continually shouts at you, swears at you, forever puts you down or belittles you, the constant threat of physical abuse (without hitting you), etc. Physical abuse is any form of unwanted physical contact – it does not have to leave any physical marks. Marital rape is physical abuse.
- Deception. Constant lies and deception, mistruths and behaviour leading to a breakdown in trust.
- Refusal to participate in family life. If your spouse refuses to engage with you and any children you have, this is unreasonable behaviour. Where children are concerned, each spouse should engage in their children’s upbringing and should not leave everything up to their partner.
- Mismanagement of money leading to financial strain. If one or other partner spends an unreasonable amount of money on their hobby, addiction, or personal items that lead to financial hardship, this is abuse. Within a marriage, you would expect both spouses would have to keep a roof over their heads and to have enough money to buy groceries and pay the bills a priority.
- An inappropriate relationship with another person. This is not to be confused with adultery, as the ‘other person’ could be of either sex. Unreasonable behaviour would be spending 90% of your spare time with your best friend and only 10% of your time with your spouse.
- Lack of sex. This does not imply that either spouse is duty-bound to provide sexual gratification for their spouse. It is more a case of sex being an accepted part of a loving relationship, and without sex, for some that make the marriage ‘loveless’.
- Family disputes. These can be one person refusing to have anything to do with the family of their spouse, the permission given by your spouse for their family to interfere in your family matters, any family disputes that cause conflict in the relationship.
- Excessive pursuing of a hobby. If your spouse spends an unreasonable amount of time at the golf course, fishing, or any other hobby, this is seen as unreasonable behaviour.
- Alcohol and drug abuse. If your spouse has a dependency on alcohol or drugs, this will, most likely, be seen as unreasonable behaviour.
- Lack of support, either physical or mental. No one person should have to take all responsibility for everything that happens in the home or with the family. Additionally, supporting your spouse in their endeavours is a reasonable expectation in a marriage, whether it involves their work, or a health issue, etc.
- Spending too much time on social media, their smartphone, or playing video games. Modern technology has intruded severely on marriages, and if one or other spouse does not engage to the same degree, their spouse’s behaviour can be seen as unreasonable.
How to explain unreasonable behaviour?
When submitting your petition for divorce, if you are using unreasonable behaviour as grounds, you must provide four or five examples of that behaviour. Additionally, you not only have to list the behaviour and explain in detail what the actions of your spouse involved. You also have to make it clear, in each instance, how that behaviour affected you and how it left you feeling. You can state, for example: “My husband started coming home late, and he was usually drunk. He would ignore me completely and then go upstairs to bed. We have not made love in six months. This has left me feeling unwanted, unloved and uncomfortable in my own home.”
The time limits that apply to unreasonable behaviour
As a general rule, you should submit your divorce petition no later than six months after the last instance of unreasonable behaviour if you still share the marital home. If one of you has left the marital home, you may provide examples of unreasonable behaviour outside the last six months. Later than a year may be too late, unless the behaviour, such as violence, made you too afraid to report it for many months.
Will unreasonable behaviour affect the amount of a divorce settlement?
The reason why you are getting a divorce is irrelevant to the financial settlement you may be legally entitled. What the judge will be looking for in terms of the settlement, first and foremost, will be the welfare of any children.
Even though unreasonable behaviour is the most common cause of divorce, it is also the most complicated and easiest to get wrong. Therefore, it is always wise to talk to a lawyer first. If you are looking to divorce your husband or wife on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour, here at Qredible.co.uk, our divorce solicitors will be more than happy to have a brief discussion with you to ensure that your petition for divorce has everything included that will be necessary for the judge to consider.
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