We are often asked by clients what constitutes ‘unreasonable’ for the purposes of a divorce petition based on their spouse’s unreasonable behaviour.
There is only one ground for divorce in England and Wales – the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, i.e. that the marriage is beyond repair. There are five ways of showing this to the Court:
- desertion for two years or more
- separation for two years or more with the other person’s consent and
- 5 years separation (where it is not necessary to obtain the other person’s consent).
We are often asked if clients can file a divorce petition based on their partner’s adultery, despite the partner denying that they are in another relationship, or have been unfaithful during the marriage. Whilst it could be possible to file the petition based on adultery, the likelihood of the partner signing to confirm that they have committed adultery, when they have told you that they have not, is slim. There are also technicalities about what constitutes adultery which may mean that the legal definition is not satisfied, despite your partner having behaved inappropriately.
This can therefore lead to additional costs in having to provide evidence of the adultery, and uncertainty as to whether the court is minded to agree with you. Equally, this can lead to even more difficulties when you’re trying to co-parent following separation.
It is often the case, therefore, that those with suspicions about their partner’s behaviour issue the petition based on their partner’s ‘inappropriate relationship’ with persons outside of the marriage i.e. not the petitioner.
There are other reasons for the breakdown of the marriage which fall squarely within the box of potentially unreasonable behaviour. As solicitors, we have read all sorts of different reasons cited in divorce petition, including:
- Loving your horse more than your spouse
- Being addicted to computer games
- Financial control
- Having an unhealthy obsession with gardening
- Being ‘too close’ to a friend or colleague
- Falling out with your in-laws
- Tracking your partner
- Difference in parenting styles
- Domestic abuse
- Eating meat
- Addiction to drugs, alcohol or gambling
- Lack of affection and sex
Whilst some of these things may not seem ‘unreasonable’ to some people, to others, they could be the last straw. Clients often ask whether the Judge will think they’re stupid or just being petty, but that isn’t the case. Lawyers and Judges are well aware that problems arise in marriages and ultimately, some would say that you could write an unreasonable behaviour petition for anyone who is married. Each case is looked at in terms of the individual circumstances for that couple. If one person’s behaviour has caused the other person to believe that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, then in most instances there should not be any difficulties in demonstrating this to the court.
If you are considering getting divorced, but you’re concerned that your justification for doing so isn’t serious enough, or unreasonable enough – come and speak to us. Lawyers are entirely separate from your relationship and aren’t here to judge you.