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Grounds for Divorce – Unreasonable Behaviour

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Originally published on 28th September 2018 at 10:20 AM

If you need to get divorced using ‘unreasonable behaviour’ as the ground for divorce, then this is all you need to know about divorcing under English and Welsh law.

Not sure what fact you are going to rely on yet? Visit this page for more information on grounds for divorce.

What does the Grounds for divorce – unreasonable behaviour mean?

Unreasonable behaviour means your partner has behaved in such a way that you are unable to live with them anymore. There are usually two reasons for filing an unreasonable behaviour petition. Firstly, that your ex’s behaviour is so bad that you feel you cannot stay together. Secondly, there are no other grounds for divorce you can use.

We don’t have no-fault divorce in England and Wales so many couples are left with alleging unreasonable behaviour. If you haven’t been separated for two years, and no one has had an affair, there are no other grounds for divorce left. This means kicking off the process with blame and accusation. Not a great way to start. Especially if there are children involved or you have to make financial arrangements and need to negotiate with each other.

If you are in this situation where no other grounds for divorce apply, then please book a call with our specially trained divorce coaches who will help you.

Examples of unreasonable behaviour

  • Lack of emotional support
  • Violence / Physical abuse
  • Verbal abuse
  • Financially irresponsible e.g failure to support the family, household costs.
  • Lack of support in general, around the house, in your career etc
  • Gambling to excess on a frequent basis and/or creating debt without your knowledge
  • Drug / alcohol abuse
  • Refusal to discuss/work on issues within the marriage
  • Not wanting to engage in any sexual or physical relations
  • Limited socialising happens as a couple

Does my partner need to agree to this as grounds for divorce?

No, you can begin divorce proceedings without your partner agreeing to the divorce if you are using unreasonable behaviour.

What if my ex-partner doesn’t agree with the divorce?

You can still start divorce proceedings but your partner may choose to contest the divorce. If they do this they will need to file what’s called ‘an answer’ to your petition and pay a fee of £245. Few people succeed in counter petitioning and it can be expensive. There is rarely much point. Better to focus on moving forward rather than arguing about what has gone before. Unreasonable behaviour does not affect your financial settlement. Pragmatism is called for (see below).

What if my ex-partner disputes the detail of the unreasonable behaviour?

A better route than contesting the divorce is for your partner to state that they will not contest the divorce but do not agree with the allegations you have made. There is a box to tick in the paperwork that the court sends you to do this.

How do I start divorce proceedings?

The divorce proceedings start when you file your divorce petition. The ‘petitioner’ (the person initiating the divorce) writes around five bullets points describing the unreasonable behaviour of the ‘respondent’ (the person who in their view has acted unreasonably). It’s a tricky balance to get right. The petition must serious enough to pass in the eyes of the law, but not spiteful so that it causes unnecessary aggravation when you may have to co-parent or discuss finances.

From here, there are options about how you’d like to divorce depending on how much control you want throughout the process and how much you have to spend on getting divorced.

The chart below shows the options to kick off divorce proceedings from the highest control and lowest cost (essentially DIY divorce) to the most expensive option with least control being court.

Unreasonable behaviour can be one the least amicable ways to divorce as it involves one person making allegations against each other. If you would like advice and support on your personal situation please get in touch with one of our divorce experts

If you have any questions, or would like some support, please book a free 15-minute call with one of our experts here.

Emma Robinson
Emma Robinson
Having experienced her own protracted and expensive divorce, Emma has spent the past 5 years working as a Divorce Mentor. Emma works with divorcing couples to find a pragmatic approach, thereby minimising conflict and costs.


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