Unreasonable behaviour is one of the 5 grounds for divorce used in the United Kingdom.
It is the most common by far – close to 50% of all divorce applications are filed on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour.
Even though, it’s used the most – it arguably has the biggest drawbacks to the individuals divorcing.
Unfortunately, not much will change until no-fault divorce is fully introduced and enforced. Until then, all we can do is understand how to handle divorcing on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour with the least number of downsides.
What are the Grounds of Unreasonable Behaviour?
Most individuals filing for divorce themselves, get very frustrated with proving what is considered unreasonable behaviour by court. In the nutshell, unreasonable behaviour is anything one part condemns as an ‘unreasonable’ action by the other party.
- Family Disputes
- Domestic Abuse
- Financial Troubles
- Inappropriate Relations with Other People
- Verbal Abuse
- Emotional Abuse
- Lack of Support
- Excessive Drinking
- Lack of Socialising
- Excessive Habits
In most cases, we would advise pointing out 3-5 examples of unreasonable behaviour in the divorce application. It’s important to note, that involving children or financial assets tend to not work too well, purely because these accusations usually provoke a strong reaction from the other party.
The quickest and most straightforward way of approaching this is sticking to less severe examples of unreasonable behaviour, for example: your partner being too argumentative or that there is lack of intimacy in the marriage.
Although, every case is different and some of this advice may not apply to you – the best step you can take is enquiring a divorce solicitor to guarantee the divorce application and process goes as smooth as it possibly can.
How to prove unreasonable behaviour?
Important note to keep in mind, unreasonable behaviour is the most used ground in divorce proceedings, but it is also the easiest to get wrong while doing it yourself. To start, the party applying for the divorce should provide the court with 3-5 examples of unreasonable behaviour and how did that behaviour affect them directly.
The logic to follow in court:
The opposite party has done ‘x, y, z’ which affected me in ‘x, y, z’ ways, so I cannot reasonably be expected to continue living with this person.
The court’s challenge is to see if, from a reasonable person’s perspective, the party that applied for divorce would not be expected to live with the opposite party.
Furthermore, most divorces tend to be uncontested, which I turn means that proving unreasonable behaviour is not an issue and the proceedings can continue smoothly. Although, if the divorce application is contested the court must examine to what extent do the ‘unreasonable behaviour’ examples are reasonable or unreasonable.
If challenged, court’s decision is determined by these 3 steps:
- Analysing what the ‘accused’ person did
- Looking at the behaviour before one of the parties applied for divorce
- Assessing these 2 factors and the evidence at hand
Taking all of this into account, court makes the decision to what extent are the two parties expected to live with each other.
Note: When submitting a divorce application, there should be no more than 6-months before the last instance of ‘unreasonable behaviour’.
What are the issues with proving unreasonable behaviour?
First and foremost, filling for divorce under the grounds of unreasonable behaviour tends to end-up with ‘pointing the blame’. In turn, this leads to personal relationships breaking down, additional stress, and emotional strain on the divorcees.
It may not always be an issue, but in many cases, divorcees must keep co-parenting in mind and after putting the blame onto each other. Unfortunately, after going through this, it proves hard to maintain a healthy co-parenting relationship.
Secondly, unreasonable behaviour tends to be quite subjective and, if contested, it highly depends on how each of the examples are argued for and proven in front of the court.
The divorce case can get even more complicated, if the children are still living with their parents, since court puts wellbeing of the children as the priority, and if there are financial assets involved (it is usually a good idea to get a divorce financial settlement before proceeding to court).
How long does divorce takes on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour?
In most cases, divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour takes around 6-12 months. It’s important to keep in mind, that courts are facing significant delays due to Covid-19.
Otherwise, the main thing that affects the length of the divorce is whether it’s contested and if the court accepts the examples of unreasonable behaviour. The divorce process can be prolonged even further, if the two parties struggle to achieve fair decisions regarding children, finances, and assets.
- It’s important to determine that the examples of unreasonable behaviour are applicable and well justified, to be accepted by court.
- Divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour can take at least 6-12 months.
- Even though, filing for divorce under grounds of unreasonable behaviour is the most popular choice, you should keep in mind that it’s the trickiest.
- Don’t do it yourself. It’s always a wise solution, to talk with a solicitor first.
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Chris Sweetman, Director of Fair Results, an authorised and regulated solicitor with the Solicitors Regulation Authority.