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  • What is Unreasonable Behaviour?

    What is Unreasonable Behaviour?

    A woman in Kuwait filed for divorce because her husband prefers to use bread to eat peas rather than a fork. After discovering this, she said she could no longer live with him.

    Some of you may say “Yuk, I agree. I could not live with that and would want a divorce”. Others may say “How silly. Everyone has little habits”.

    So, what is unreasonable behaviour and is eating peas with bread enough to get a divorce in this country?

    Firstly, some legal jargon …

    Unreasonable behaviour is one of the ‘facts’ used for divorce in England to prove the sole ground for divorce – ‘irretrievable breakdown of the marriage’. The other ‘facts’ are adultery, desertion and separation for 2 or 5 years. It makes no real difference which ‘fact’ is used as the paperwork is the same, the time it takes is the same and the costs are the same.

    To use unreasonable behaviour, you need to show the Court that your husband or wife behaves in a way that YOU find it unreasonable to continue to live with him or her. It is a subjective test, which means YOU find the behaviour impossible to live with, regardless of what other people may think.

    It is not enough that you have fallen out of love, that you have drifted apart or that you have different interests. It must be something your husband or wife does. One habit, such as eating peas with bread is unlikely to be enough for a Court to grant a divorce, but a list of say 6 annoying habits or examples of behaviour would do.

    What could you use as unreasonable behaviour?

    Well, it is something you find annoying, upsetting, irritating or otherwise unreasonable. Some people have to deal with an abusive or violent spouse and their behaviour would certainly be sufficient. Otherwise, some common examples are:

    • He never finishes a DIY job
    • She spends too much of our money on clothes and gets us into debt
    • He watches football all weekend and ignores me
    • She criticises everything I do
    • He spends hours on his laptop and I feel so alone
    • She nags me constantly

    The person instigating a divorce prepares the list of behaviour about their spouse. It is not the case that both sides prepare a list about the other.

    If you are on speaking terms with your spouse, it is a good idea to talk about the list of behaviour and try to agree the wording prior to issuing divorce proceedings. Most family solicitors will recommend that your spouse is given the chance to comment upon the list before the divorce papers are sent to the Court, as we should follow a Protocol. Some family solicitors are members of Resolution (as I am), which means that we follow a Code of Conduct to aim to keep matters amicable.

    If you send a divorce petition to the Court stating only that you wish to divorce because your husband eats peas with bread, it is likely that a divorce will not be granted and you will have to amend your petition to include more examples of behaviour, and pay an extra fee.

    So, if your husband eats peas with bread, it is not enough to get you a divorce!


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