We are operating as normal > Read our COVID-19 guidance.

Unreasonable behaviour is the most common grounds for divorce in England and Wales, with 36% of all husbands and 51% of all wives petitioning for divorce on these grounds.*

To file for divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour, the Petitioner must show that the other party to the divorce has behaved in such an unreasonable manner that they find it intolerable to live with him or her, and therefore the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

You need to provide the court with several written examples of the Respondent’s unreasonable behaviour, which should consist of their behaviour, when it occurred and how the behaviour made you feel.

Find below all of the information you’ll need to divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour and advice on how to keep relations amicable throughout the divorce process.

What constitutes unreasonable behaviour?

Some mild examples of unreasonable behaviour could include a lack of socialising together, working long hours and spending no time together or one spouse relying on the other for money.

More serious allegations could include, for example, physical violence, threatening behaviour, excessive drunkenness or running up debts.

If both parties are in agreement to the divorce and your ex-partner will respond to the court then the specifics of your allegations of unreasonable behaviour aren’t scrutinised too heavily by the court.

Similarly to adultery, if parties to the divorce continue to live together, then a divorce petition must be filed within 6 months of the last incident of unreasonable behaviour.

A divorce petition can be filed after a period of six months if one party moves out of the matrimonial home, but waiting too long may mean you need to issue a petition based on separation grounds instead of unreasonable behaviour.

This can take between two and five years depending on whether your spouse is in an agreement or not.

What types of behaviour are considered to be unreasonable?

Essentially, any kind of behaviour that your ex-spouse has displayed that left you feeling as though you cannot reasonably be expected to continue being in the marriage can be used as an example. However, these are the most common examples we see from our clients;

10 Common Examples of Unreasonable Behaviour 

  • Domestic abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Family disputes
  • Excessive gaming/social media use
  • Inappropriate relationship with another person
  • Debt/financial recklessness
  • Verbal abuse, shouting or belittling
  • Lack of socialising together
  • Drunkenness
  • Lack of support

Sometimes, marriages can drift apart without any bad behaviour taking place by either party.

Unreasonable behaviour is often seen as the only way to get a quick divorce as the UK doesn’t operate a no-fault divorce system. This means that couples are unable to file for divorce until a period of 2 years has elapsed, which for couples that are in an agreement to divorce is too long to wait.

Here are some milder examples of inappropriate behaviour you can use:

  • 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.

In years gone by, most Petitioners would cite serious allegations such as not taking care of the family finances or helping with the house or any children.

Nowadays, people are coming forward with completely different examples of behaviours that have caused the marriage to breakdown than even 10 years ago, such as;

  • The Respondent has turned Vegan and pushes his/her opinions on the Respondent.
  • The Respondent spends hours on their phone instead of spending time with the Petitioner.
  • The Respondent shares different political views to the Petitioner that causes arguments
  • The Respondent has become fanatical about [Insert Topic] e.g. Running, Cycling, Climate Change, Politics.

How many examples of unreasonable behaviour are required?

To petition for divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour in England and Wales, the court will require between 4-5 paragraphs with explanations regarding each allegation you’ve made.

The allegations you cite must be specific to your own personal circumstances and ensure your own behaviours aren’t used in any way.

It is the behaviour of one spouse to the other that has caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

Divorce proceedings are a private matter and therefore the grounds for divorce and reasons of behaviour you provide aren’t shared with the public.

The contents of the divorce petition are only visible to the parties to the divorce, any legal representatives either party has and the courts’ staff.

The first thought of most Respondent’s when receiving a divorce petition on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour is to initially ‘defend’ the divorce because they don’t agree with the allegations.

If your spouse is happy to agree to the divorce but not the allegations made against him or her, then there is an alternative.

The Respondent (your ex-partner) can tick a box on the acknowledgement of service form sent to them by the courts, which states they that will not contest the divorce but don’t agree with the allegations made against them.

This allows divorce proceedings to proceed without any hiccups or delays and ensures you will be granted a decree absolute.

Judges tend to take a view that if one party believes that the marriage has broken down then it has. It isn’t the Judge’s job to decide whether the allegations of unreasonable behaviour are true or not, it’s to rule upon whether the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

This means that choosing to defend a divorce on the basis of unreasonable behaviour is very costly and rarely successful.

    How to word behaviour particulars on the divorce petition?

    You need to write between four or five detailed and specific examples of what the behaviour was, when it happened and how it made you feel.

    If you’re unsure how to word each of your allegations then read our post on how to word unreasonable behaviour examples or call us for free advice on 01793 384 029.

    Or, let Divorce-Online handle everything for you for just £189! We’ll take the behaviour examples from you and professionally draft them on your divorce papers. Finally, we’ll process the paperwork through the courts for and provide you with access to track each step online from your phone or laptop.

    Wording Examples for Unreasonable Behaviour

    • “The Respondent and the Petitioner stopped socialising together in March 2017, which led to the Petitioner feeling lonely/depressed “… etc.
    • “Since January 2020, the Respondent has spent all of his free time on his hobby and doesn’t spend time with the Petitioner or his young child, which led to the Petitioner feeling isolated/overwhelmed”… etc.

    Does unreasonable behaviour affect a divorce settlement?

    Just because your husband or wife has displayed unreasonable behaviours during the marriage, does not mean they are entitled to more/less than they would be if they had committed adultery for example.

    The grounds for divorce you choose will rarely affect the way any finances are split following a divorce.

    Judges will pay particular regard to the welfare and needs of any children to the marriage when a financial agreement has been made and presented to them by way of a consent order.

    What happens if my ex ignores the divorce papers?

    If your ex-husband or wife ignores the divorce petition, you may need to instruct a process server.

    This may sound daunting but it will show the court that your spouse has been served with the divorce papers and enables you do obtain a divorce. Instructing a process server can cost between £100 – £200.

    If you choose to use Divorce-Online to help you with your divorce, we will handle this process for you.

    Once your ex has acknowledged the divorce petition, the divorce can then proceed without the agreement of your spouse.

    How Divorce-Online can help you…

    Divorce-Online can prepare your unreasonable behaviour divorce petition, which involves drafting the wording examples as well as handling the entire divorce process.

    If both parties are in agreement to the divorce you can use an uncontested divorce with the grounds of unreasonable behaviour, without needing to hire a solicitor and spend thousands.

    If there are finances to separate such as property, pensions, maintenance and/or children matters, then you should consider viewing our Divorce & Financial Order Services from £299.

    If you need any further information on our divorce services or advice on what to include in your unreasonable behaviour divorce petition please call us for free advice on 01793 384 029 or email us today.

    Download Our Guide To Unreasonable Behaviour Divorce Examples
    If you are ready to file for divorce, then view our Managed Divorce Service which can be used when using unreasonable behaviour for just £189 or you can also call us for a free consultation.

    Unreasonable Behaviour Examples Free PDF

    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.

    Click here to chat with us!