Unreasonable? Who? Me? 90 seconds on divorce.

Unreasonable behaviour: the most common ground for divorce in England and Wales where the parties do not want to see out periods of separation.

Silhouette of couple arguing at dusk signifying unreasonable behaviour

The most common ground for divorce in England and Wales where the parties do not want to see out periods of separation before commencing proceedings, is unreasonable behaviour.

Parties are encouraged to agree a form of petition which does not contain allegations to which the respondent may take exception. This may result in anodyne particulars which can make it appear that the behaviour is not that bad.

However most family lawyers advise clients not to contest petitions because it is expensive to do so and the judiciary are not in favour of parties arguing about the reasons for the breakdown. Cost and expediency override the wounded feelings of the spouse.

Unreasonable, me?

However, in a recent case a judge refused to grant the wife a divorce on the basis of her husband’s unreasonable behaviour. This raised the issue of whether many parties are being divorced on grounds which do not pass muster. The judge took the view that in spite of the wife’s petition raising some 27 incidents of alleged unreasonable behaviour they did not constitute behaviour that was anything more than could reasonably be expected to happen in any marriage.

Where does this leave the spouse who no longer wishes to live with their partner but has tried not to inflame what may be an already volatile situation by keeping the allegations in the petition as bland as possible? Are spouses now going to have to include more contentious allegations so as to ensure the best possible chance of obtaining their divorce even if it is opposed by the other party?

Do people, as some lawyers consider necessary, want a change whereby a divorce can be obtained on a no fault basis without the need to play the blame game? In any event, should a spouse be left in a marriage which they do not want? Contact our family team if this is you.

Please note the contents contained in this article are for general guidance only and reflection the position at time of posting. Legal advice should be sought before taking action in relation to specific matters.

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