Rainscourt Family Law Solicitors

What is unreasonable behaviour?

Unreasonable behaviour is one of the facts that you can use to obtain a divorce.  The unreasonable behaviour of a husband is the most popular reason chosen by a wife when preparing her divorce petition (in 54% of cases in England and Wales in 2011).  Husbands appear less reluctant to rely on the unreasonable behaviour of their wife when issuing a petition, used in 36% of the cases from 2011.

When faced with the option of preparing an unreasonable behaviour petition, there is often a concern on the part of both lawyer and client that the blaming behaviour set out in the petition will not help the parties achieve an amicable settlement.  Nobody wants to read a list of their faults, regardless of how true they are.  However, the other options open to the petitioner when preparing a petition, namely adultery, two years of separation with both parties consenting to divorce, five years separation without consent and desertion, include an element of blame, or a willingness to let matters rest for a while, and often a couple wishes to finalise and conclude issues to enable them to move on with their lives.

The role of the divorce solicitor will be to guide the client in setting out sufficient unreasonable behaviour to satisfy the requirements of the judge considering the paperwork, which must demonstrate that the behaviour is such that you can no longer be expected to live with the respondent spouse, whilst ensuring that the drafting does not lead to unnecessary emotional distress for the separating couple.  The reasons included in the petition could therefore, to the interested reader, appear rather banal.  In a case which came before the Court of Appeal last year, the husband raised such issues in his petition as disputes over a washing machine (Rae v Rae).  Many unreasonable behaviour petitions will contain apparently inconsequential reasons or broad nebulous complaints, such as the respondent spouse having different friends or engrossing hobbies which remove them from family life.  The fears of the petitioner who wishes to pursue an immediate divorce, but has no desire to prepare acrimonious particulars, can therefore often be assuaged by drafting suitably mild reasons, particularly if the couple are able to agree the wording of the relevant paragraphs before the issuing of the petition.

We have published an update to this blog in 2018 following a recent Court of Appeal judgment.

Unreasonable behaviour

Photo credit: TheDyslexicBook.com

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