Unreasonable behaviour is the most commonly cited reason for divorce, and covers a broad range of issues which may contribute to the breakdown of a relationship. As with any petition for divorce, allegations of unreasonable behaviour must be supported to demonstrate how your spouse’s actions have led to your wish to end the marriage. It is then up to your spouse to accept or defend the claim.
There is no such thing as a ‘no fault divorce’ in England and Wales. We have only one ground for divorce which is that a marriage has irretrievably broken down. This claim must be supported by one of five facts, three of which require a waiting period. The five facts are: being separated for at least five years (for which no consent is required from the other party for the application for divorce); being separated for at least two years (requiring the consent of both parties to go forward with divorce); desertion, adultery and unreasonable behaviour. Contrary to popular belief, there is no option to cite ‘irreconcilable differences’ as a reason for divorce – this is a term used in America, and the closest option in the UK is likely to be unreasonable behaviour.
Unreasonable behaviour is often given as the reason for divorce since it can be applied to a variety of situations. Stating a case based on adultery or desertion can be fairly straightforward, while a claim of unreasonable behaviour may be more complicated or vague – in some cases, the behaviour that led to the dispute may not even have been deliberate. Similarly, the decision to break up may originate from a single incident or as a result of an accumulative effect of the unreasonable behaviour. Sometimes unreasonable behaviour can be hard to define, but your solicitor will be able to help to establish your situation and detail your options for moving forward with separation.
Some examples of unreasonable behaviour might include:
- Violent, threatening, abuse or manipulative behaviour
- Excessive drinking or drug use
- Irresponsible parenting
- Financial recklessness – eg: running up debts, gambling, not contributing to the household
- Improper behaviour with a third party, going out too frequently, or lying about their actions
- Failure to communicate or share a social life with their spouse
- Lack of intimacy
- Refusal to attend couples counselling, or complete denial that there is anything wrong in the relationship despite attempts from the petitioning party to resolve problems
- Irrational jealousy, controlling behaviour
- Unfair distribution of responsibilities within the household
If you feel that your partner’s behaviour is unreasonable and you’re thinking of applying for a divorce, make sure to note down the date and details of any incidents, and try to describe the problem as clearly as possible. The best way to pave the way for an amicable separation is to discuss the situation with your partner and try to come to an agreement about how you’re going to proceed. However, if you’re finding it hard to have a rational discussion with your ex, your solicitor will be able to help you draft a petition or explore alternatives to a court divorce that encourages cooperation and collaboration
Divorce can be difficult, but lodging a petition with an endless list of complaints is not going toh elp your case run smoothly and swiftly. If unreasonable behaviour is the only option open to you then a sensible divorce lawyer will draft the petition as mildly as possible so as not to inflame the situation and to allow you a better chance of settling disputes through mediation.
To speak to an experienced solicitor to discuss your options, call Frances Lindsay & Co on 01628 634667 or visit www.franceslindsay.co.uk.