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10 Common Examples of Unreasonable Behaviour

Unreasonable Behaviour is one of five available grounds for divorce in England and Wales.

It’s used in approximately 45% of all divorce applications, making it the most commonly used ground.

The sound of unreasonable behaviour is daunting to most people.

It creates a lot of questions, but until a no-fault divorce system becomes the law it may be your best solution to getting a quick divorce.

This article will help you understand the types of behaviours that commonly used by Petitioners and how they should be worded on the divorce petition.

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Use our list of unreasonable behaviour examples as guidance for drafting your particulars on the divorce petition. These examples will, of course, need to be expanded on to give the Judge full context on the behaviours, time periods and how it made you feel.

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1) Domestic abuse

During our research, we found that domestic abuse is unfortunately still one of the most common behaviours mentioned on divorce petitions we receive that are based on unreasonable behaviour.

If you have been abused then it obviously serves as grounds for divorce. Abuse can come in many forms so creating a list of 4-5 behaviours should be possible, just from this one action.

Divorce Petition Example: “On [insert date], the Respondent was physically violent towards the Petitioner, leaving them to feel [insert emotion]

2) Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse is more common than you would hope it to be.

We tend to find that it occurs more in shorter marriages and younger people.

Divorce Petition Example: “On [insert date], the Respondent was physically violent towards the Petitioner, leaving them to feel [insert emotion]

3) Family Disputes

Family disputes are probably the most common example we see given by our clients. They can happen for a multitude of reasons and they never make marriage easy.

The most common dispute we see is the one where a spouse’s parents or siblings don’t get on with the husband or wife, making it difficult to socialise together.

The inappropriate behaviour, in this case, could be unnecessary name-calling, an unwillingness to discuss the subject, or different types of abuse towards your family for example.

Divorce Petition Example: “Since [insert date], the Respondent has continued to be unnecessarily rude to my family, leaving the Petitioner to feel [insert emotion/feeling]. The Respondent understands how it makes the Petitioner feel, however, they continue to be unwilling to discuss the subject at all”.

4) Excessive gaming/social media use

Gaming and social media addictions have become a lot more common in recent years with the releases of such popular games and sites such as Fortnite and TikTok.

An addiction to anything can put a lot of stress on the other party.

Excessive gaming or use of social media would never have been mentioned on divorce petitions even as little as 10 years ago, however, now they are surprisingly common.

We’ve covered how Fortnite has been responsible for many divorces before, as well as the effects Facebook has had on marriages over the last 8 years.

If your spouse is excessively playing games or being unattentive or passive whilst browsing social media, it can be the catalyst for the breakdown of the marriage.

Divorce Petition Example: “The Respondent regularly spends hours on their phone without speaking to the Petitioner. This makes the Petitioner feel [insert emotion/feeling]. Since [insert date], I have asked the Respondent to be more engaged and responsive, however, they continue to spend hours on their phone”.

5) Debts / Financial recklessness

Some people are just simply bad with money, which can cause marital issues.

In some marriages, one party will drum up debts without the other spouse knowing about it. This could be due to an addiction, drugs, or gambling for example.

Being financially reckless when you are married can cause the other party a lot of stress as the matrimonial finances are shared.

If one party to the marriage is having to pay more because of bad money decisions by the other party then it’s likely to cause disagreements.

Divorce Petition Example: “The Respondent has built up large debts without my knowledge. I found out about the debts in [insert date], and when confronted, the Respondent agreed to spend less money on gambling and drinking. However, the Respondent has continued to grow the debt, which has left the Petitioner to feel [insert emotion/feeling].

6) Inappropriate relationship with another person

This is commonly known as Adultery. It is the act of one party having sexual intercourse with another person of the opposite sex.

An inappropriate relationship with another person doesn’t necessarily mean that adultery had occurred, however, it is enough for some people to call it quits.

If you are unable to continue being married to your spouse after becoming aware of their behaviour then using unreasonable behaviour is your best option.

Divorce Petition Example: “The Respondent has had an inappropriate relationship with another woman/man, which I found out about in [insert date], this made the Petitioner feel [insert emotion/feeling]”.

7) Verbal abuse, shouting, or belittling

If your spouse has been verbally abusive towards you on several occasions, it may have helped contribute to the breakdown of your marriage.

The same could be said for both shouting and/or belittling as these types of actions can drive wedges between couples.

Often times, these types of behaviours are coupled with other examples of unreasonable behaviour, such as excessive alcohol consumption, emotional abuse etc.

If these types of behaviours have caused your marriage to breakdown, or if they were a contributing factor then they can be used to obtain a divorce.

Divorce Petition Example: “The Respondent verbally abuses the Petitioner on a regular basis, causing the Petitioner to feel [insert emotion/feeling]” Since [insert date], the Respondent has continued this behaviour after being aware of how it makes the Petitioner feel.

8) Lack of socialising together

It’s common that within a marriage each party has interests in separate things, whether that is a hobby, socialising with friends or family or possibly animals for example.

If parties to the marriage are socialising separately on a regular basis it can cause the breakdown of the marriage as one party is likely to feel distant or neglected by the other spouse.

Divorce Petition Example: “The Respondent shows no interest in socialising with the Petitioner and since [Date], has continued to play golf with his friends, leaving the Petitioner to feel [insert emotion/feeling, e.g. lonely, neglected]

9) Drunkenness

One party being drunk on a regular basis and behaving inappropriately towards the Petitioner is fairly common, however sad that fact is.

This appears to have accelerated even more during the national lockdown as our research shows.

We find that usually, excessive drunkenness leads to verbal abuse, shouting, and belittling, but of course, a range of other behaviours can follow drunkenness.

Divorce Petition Example: “The Respondent drinks alcohol excessively and since [insert date], this has led to verbal abuse and shouting, which has made the Petitioner feel [insert emotion/feeling]”.

10) Lack of support

Petitioners often cite the lack of support they receive for things like household chores and childcare as reasons for divorce.

There are other types of lack of support, such as emotional support, support with a career, etc.

Usually, a lack of support leads to other problems within a marriage, such as disagreements, socialising separately, and even sleeping separately.

If a lack of support from your spouse for any reason has caused your marriage to breakdown then you can use this to obtain a divorce.

Divorce Petition Example: “The Respondent has failed to support me with household cleaning and childcare, which has left the Respondent to feel [insert emotion/feeling]”.

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What other behaviours constitute unreasonable behaviour?

Now, of course, there is a range of milder examples of reasons why the marriage broke down, which can be … as unreasonable behaviour:

  • The Respondent prefers to spend time with their pet than the Petitioner.
  • The Respondent refuses to talk about marital problems.
  • The Respondent doesn’t give general support to the Petitioner, e.g. with housework.
  • The Respondent works long hours and is often away from home, leaving the Petitioner to feel stressed and lonely.
  • The Respondent plays video games for long hours and leaves the Petitioner alone.

What else should I know about Unreasonable Behaviour?

There are a few important things to know before proceeding to file a divorce petition based on your spouse’s behaviour.

  1. If your circumstances allow, you should try to agree on the reasons with your ex-partner to avoid any unwanted conflicts.
  2. The particulars you draft on your divorce petition must be the actions your spouse has done (not your own), which has caused the marriage to breakdown.
  3. For a judge to grant you the divorce, it’s recommended that you compile a list of between 4-5 examples of the inappropriate behaviours.

Unfortunately, as the divorce law stands in England and Wales, to get a quick divorce you are required to allege that certain behaviours have occurred within the marriage, which has led to the breakdown of the marriage.

If you are happy to wait until you’ve been separated for a period of two years, then there is no need to use any allegations.

After two years you can file with the agreement of your ex-partner without needing to give any reasons about why you want a divorce.

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This post was written by Mark Keenan. Editor of the Divorce Online Blog and Managing Director of Online Legal Service Ltd. Mark has been writing about divorce and related subjects for over 20+ years and is an expert in legal marketing.

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