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Divorce proceedings – what is unreasonable behaviour?

Oct 19, 2017   ·   3 minute read

What is unreasonable behaviour sounds like an odd question but as a divorce and finance solicitor it is one that I’m often asked as the most common basis to get divorced is a spouse’s unreasonable behaviour.

You can get a divorce if your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with him or her. An unreasonable behaviour divorce petition has to contain enough allegations of unreasonable behaviour by your spouse to persuade the Court that you are entitled to a divorce.

There are lots of common misconceptions about unreasonable behaviour divorce petitions such as:

  • Only domestic violence counts as unreasonable behaviour – that is not the case. The Courts accept many different types of allegations of unreasonable behaviour such as an unwillingness to socialise with you or financial control. There are many other examples of unreasonable behaviour ;
  • There has to be a lot of unreasonable behaviour – that isn’t the case. Usually 5 or 6 incidents or allegations are sufficient. Most people who want a divorce don’t want to air all the history of their marriage in the divorce paperwork ;
  • You can include details of your own ‘unreasonable behaviour ‘ in the divorce petition to make it even handed – you can’t do that but there are ways to minimise the impact of an unreasonable behaviour divorce petition;
  • Your spouse has to agree to a divorce – that isn’t the case although I usually recommend trying to agree the contents of an unreasonable behaviour petition with a spouse to save time and money. If agreement can’t be reached then divorce proceedings can still be started. When a spouse realises that the contents of the divorce petition won’t usually effect the arrangements for the children or money it is normally possible to agree the divorce paperwork;
  • You have to start the divorce proceedings to get the upper hand – it is commonly thought that whoever instigates the unreasonable behaviour   petition is in a better position. That isn’t necessarily the case but there are some benefits of being the spouse who starts the divorce as you are then in control of timescales to progress the divorce to your Decree Absolute;
  • You have to agree the childcare arrangements and financial matters before you can start unreasonable behaviour divorce proceedings – that isn’t right either. It is often sensible to start divorce proceedings and while the Court is looking at the divorce paperwork you can agree on childcare and financial matters. If you can’t reach an agreement you can still finalise the divorce as the Court can make children or financial orders either during or after the conclusion of the divorce ;You have to be living separately to start unreasonable behaviour divorce proceedings – again that isn’t correct. You can issue an unreasonable behaviour petition even if you still living in the same household.

I find that the most common misconception about an unreasonable behaviour divorce petition is that it causes more hurt to the other spouse than a divorce petition based on adultery or based on a period of separation. At present there is no such thing as a no fault divorce in the UK and once spouses learn that unreasonable behaviour petitions are the most common basis for a divorce there is usually a desire to focus the lawyers on sorting out the childcare arrangements and reaching a financial resolution.

For help in starting divorce proceedings or to ask a question about divorce, children or financial matters please contact me on 01625 728012 or by e-mail at