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Examples of Unreasonable Behaviour in Divorce

In England and Wales, we do not have a no-fault divorce system, which essentially means that unless you are prepared to wait for 2 years of separation then you must blame your ex-partner for the breakdown of the marriage in order to obtain a divorce.

Unreasonable Behaviour would be used in these circumstances, which is why it’s the most commonly used grounds for divorce with couples now more often seeking a quick divorce.

There are many reasons why using unreasonable behaviour has become so popular as a means to divorce, but largely it’s because couples are unwilling to wait two years to end their marriage and move on with their lives.

What actually constitutes unreasonable behaviour?

The allegations you make for unreasonable behaviour are unique to your relationship and must contain the inappropriate behaviour of your spouse and cannot contain your own behaviour.

Before we show you some of the most common examples of reasons spouse’s give on unreasonable behaviour based divorce petitions, you need to be aware of the following;

  • The allegations of unreasonable behaviour must be of your spouse and not your own behaviour.
  • You must file for divorce within 6 months of the behaviour taking place and the marriage breaking down.

Here are some examples of common unreasonable behaviour reasons given on divorce petitions:

The most common examples of unreasonable behaviour

  • Domestic abuse
  • Lack of sex
  • Family disputes
  • Inappropriate relationship with another person
  • Debt/financial recklessness
  • Verbal abuse, shouting or belittling
  • Obsessive Hobby
  • Lack of socialising
  • Drunkenness
  • Lack of support

The Common Examples of Unreasonable Behaviour, Explained

Domestic abuse

The Respondent has been physically violent towards the Petitioner, which has caused the Petitioner obvious upset and distress.

Lack of sex

The parties have not had a sexual relationship [insert date], which has been caused by the Respondent’s behaviour, leaving the Petitioner distressed.

Family disputes

The Respondent has always disliked the Petitioners family, which has led to the Petitioner feeling isolated from them and thus causing [him/her] distress.

Inappropriate relationships

The Petitioner believes that the Respondent has formed an improper relationship with another [man/women], which has caused the Petitioner distress.

Debt / Financially reckless

The parties have argued over money issues for some time. These arguments have been fuelled by the Respondent’s attitude and behaviour.

Verbal abuse, shouting or belittling

The Respondent has regularly belittled the Petitioner, both in private and on occasion in public, causing the Petitioner to lose self-esteem.

Obsessive Hobby

The Respondent is obsessed by [insert relevant hobby] and spends most [his/her] free time in this pursuit to the exclusion of the family.

Lack of socialising

The Respondent has consistently shown little or no interest in socialising with the Petitioner or [his/her] friends and has made no effort to do so.


The Respondent often drinks excessively, in the view of the Petitioner, which causes [him/her] to behave in an [irresponsible/aggressive/unpleasant] manner, causing the Petitioner distress.

Lack of support

The Respondent has consistently refused to assist around the house, leaving all such matters to the Petitioner, despite regular requests to the contrary.

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No serious behaviour has occurred, can I still use Unreasonable Behaviour?

The allegations of unreasonable behaviour you write in the divorce petition don’t need to be serious; milder allegations, such as not socialising together or sharing the same bed usually satisfy a Judge when parties are agreed to the divorce.

If your relationship has drifted apart without any of the more extreme examples taking place, then you can look at using some of these milder examples of inappropriate 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.

The court will require 4-5 examples of your spouse’s behaviour that has contributed to the breakdown of your marriage.

If you are handling your own divorce then you will need to ensure that when you are completing the divorce petition that you are doing it in the correct way; We have some examples on how to word the allegations on another article.

We advise if possible agreeing on the allegations with your ex-partner when drafting the divorce petition so you don’t aggravate an already stressful and emotional situation.

If your spouse digs his or her feet in or doesn’t respond to the paperwork, then the divorce process can be prolonged, that’s why we recommended calling us on 01793 384 029 for free and impartial advice.

Time limits and requirements…

A divorce can be initiated using unreasonable behaviour after a minimum of 12 months of marriage.

However, if you are cohabiting with your spouse for a period of more than 6 months after the last alleged unreasonable behaviour, the court may refuse to grant the divorce petition.

If the court refuses to grant the divorce, it will be as part of the consideration of whether you can reasonably be expected to live with the respondent.

If the petition is refused, you may need to wait until you have been separated for 2 years and divorce using that ground.

Practical tips when filing for divorce on Unreasonable Behaviour

Divorce is a stressful and painful time for most people, so this article is intended to provide you with practical ways in which to reduce the stress and cost of your divorce when using unreasonable behaviour.

1. Write down the behaviour allegations

Use a pen and paper to write down the behaviours of your husband or wife that caused the marriage to breakdown.

Unreasonable behaviour can at first sound quite daunting, so writing down all of the allegations on paper first can make it seem more manageable and straightforward.

2. Agree on the reasons with your spouse

Reaching an agreement isn’t always possible, but if you are amicable with your ex-partner it will enable you to agree on the reasons for divorce.

Agreeing to the reasons or allegations will provide for a quicker, easier and more straightforward divorce procedure.

3. The allegations should be true

The allegations you make against your husband or wife must be true. If allegations are made that are false, it can delay the divorce proceedings due to your spouse contesting the divorce.

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We can prepare the divorce petition for you to ensure your allegations of unreasonable behaviour satisfy the Judge without causing acrimony with your spouse. We’ll manage your divorce from beginning-to-end and you can track everything from your phone or laptop.

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This post was written by Mark Keenan. Editor of the Divorce-Online and Managing Director of Online Legal Services 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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