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The Law Society Family Law Acceditation Resolution - First for Family Law
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Unreasonable behaviour

Overview

You can get a divorce on the basis that your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with him/her. This is usually referred to as an unreasonable behaviour petition. If you want to rely on this ground for divorce, your petition must contain sufficient allegations of unreasonable behaviour by your spouse to persuade the court that you are entitled to a divorce on that basis. You cannot seek a divorce by citing your own unreasonable behaviour.

Undefended Divorce


If it is likely that your petition will be defended by your spouse, then it would need to include all possible allegations of unreasonable behaviour to maximise the chance of you getting a divorce. However, our service only relates to undefended divorces. Therefore, before asking us to help you to get a divorce on this ground, you need to make sure that your spouse is in agreement. In due course and as part of the court process, your spouse will need to confirm in writing that your petition is not defended.

The Allegations of Unreasonable Behaviour


Once you are sure that your petition will not be defended, it should not be necessary to set out all possible allegations of unreasonable behaviour. This is because the court is unlikely to raise any objections to the petition if your spouse consents to a divorce on this ground. The allegations of unreasonable behaviour can then be watered down to reduce the possibility of causing offence to your spouse and ensuring his/her cooperation. However, your petition still needs to contain enough allegations to satisfy the court that you are legally entitled to a divorce on the basis of unreasonable behaviour. Usually, about five or six allegations should be sufficient to convince the court, and we are very experienced in drafting these petitions correctly.

Reconciliation


The law allows parties to try to get back together (referred to as reconciliation) after an act of unreasonable behaviour takes place for a single period or combined periods of up to six months. Consequently, you can still rely on a particular act of unreasonable behaviour to get a divorce, as long as you do not live with your spouse as man and wife for more than six months after it occurred. Each fresh act of unreasonable behaviour kicks off a new six month period.

Cumulative Effect


Subject to that point, the court is able to look at the whole history of your marriage and consider the cumulative effect of conduct. So, for example, the court might accept that a series of minor acts could over a period of time add up to unreasonable behaviour.

Living Together / Separation


You can issue an unreasonable behaviour petition, even if you are still living in the same household with your spouse as man and wife, as long as the allegations are not more than six months old. Allegations can relate to the time when you were living together, or the period after you parted – unreasonable behaviour can continue after separation. If you have already separated from your spouse, it is useful to include brief details of the separation as an allegation of unreasonable behaviour, since this helps to convince the court that the marriage has in fact broken down.

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Living apart under the same Roof

It is legally possible to live separate and apart from your spouse, even if you are both living under the same roof, as long as you maintain separate households within the property. The courts recognise that this does happen, usually for financial reasons. However a fairly strict legal test is applied and you might have to provide details to the court about the actual living arrangements, such as whether you share a bedroom, eat meals together or share social time, what arrangements are made for cleaning and other domestic tasks, and how you pay household and other bills.

Adultery as an act of Unreasonable Behaviour


Even if you do not have any evidence of actual adultery, you can, where appropriate, allege an improper relationship with a third party as an act of unreasonable behaviour, provided (for the purposes of our service) that your spouse does not object. It should not be necessary to name the third party – it would usually be very undesirable to do so.

Intention


Unreasonable behaviour does not have to be deliberate, although the question of intention might be relevant. Unreasonable behaviour can be either active or passive, and each case is decided on its own facts.

Sensitive Allegations


Naturally, there may be some allegations which are particularly sensitive and which might result in your spouse refusing to cooperate - violence, third party relationships, sexual accusations, financial misconduct, allegations concerning children of the family, etc. We strongly recommend that allegations of this nature should be avoided wherever possible. We would no longer be able to help you if your spouse refused to consent to the divorce.

Mutual Cooperation


Once we have drafted the petition, we strongly recommend that you show a copy of it to your spouse before it is sent to the court. If there are any allegations which cause particular offence to your spouse, it should be possible to remove them from the draft to ensure his/her consent. However, it is important for you to explain to your spouse that the petition must include enough allegations to satisfy the court that you are entitled to a divorce. You can also assure your spouse that, by consenting to the divorce, he/she will not be damaging his/her position in relation to children or financial issues in any way, assuming that your petition does not include any allegations concerning such matters. The law is very clear on this point.

Drafting your Petition


In terms of the layout of your petition, best practice is to set out a general allegation of unreasonable behaviour first, followed by one or two specific examples of the behaviour concerned. To assist you, we have set out below some typical allegations of unreasonable behaviour. For drafting purposes, we have assumed that the Petitioner is the wife, but of course this need not be the case. We have listed the most serious examples of unreasonable behaviour first but, as explained above, these should be avoided wherever possible, as they are likely to cause offence to your spouse. These are examples only, and the allegations of unreasonable behaviour contained in your own petition must of course be true.

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Examples of Unreasonable Behaviour:


(a) The Respondent has been violent towards the Petitioner.

By way of example, on the xNx day of xNx during an argument at the former matrimonial home, the Respondent punched the Petitioner on the right side of her face, causing bruising.

(b) The Respondent has threatened the Petitioner with physical violence.

By way of example, on the xNx day of xNx 200xNx during an argument at the former matrimonial home, the Respondent threatened to punch the Petitioner in the face if she did not leave the room.

(c) The Respondent has been subject to fits of violent temper.

By way of example, on the xNx day of xNx 200xNx during an argument at the former matrimonial home, the Respondent hurled a plate across the kitchen, which smashed against the wall.

(d) The Respondent has been abusive towards the Petitioner.

By way of example, on the xNx day of xNx 200xNx during an argument at the former matrimonial home, the Respondent shouted abuse at the Petitioner, calling her “a bitch” and “a whore”.

(e) The Respondent drinks to excess, and when he is under the influence of alcohol he behaves in an unreasonable and aggressive manner.

By way of example, the Respondent habitually consumes at least one bottle of wine every evening, becoming drunk and abusive towards the Petitioner, and incapable of sensible conversation.

(f) The Respondent is financially irresponsible, and has failed to maintain the Petitioner and the children properly during the marriage.

By way of example, it was agreed that the Respondent should give the Petitioner the sum of xNx per week as general maintenance for herself and the children of the family, but the Respondent is frequently late in giving this money to the Petitioner, and on occasions has refused to make payment at all. This has made it impossible for the Petitioner to support herself and the children properly, causing her great distress.

(g) During the marriage the Respondent has gambled to excess and has, on numerous occasions, caused considerable distress to the Petitioner by running up large gambling debts and dissipating the family’s savings.

(h) The Respondent has formed an improper relationship with a woman whose identity is unknown to the Petitioner / whose identity and address the Petitioner does not wish to disclose.

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By way of example, the Respondent often takes this woman out to dinner and spends large sums of money buying her presents, and on occasions has stayed overnight in the same hotel room as the woman concerned.

(i) The Respondent has frequently indulged in extreme fits of moodiness and silence, which have caused distress and anxiety to the Petitioner.

By way of example, at weekends the Respondent spends long periods of time alone in the dining room at the former matrimonial home, and refuses to speak to the Petitioner.

(j) The Respondent has refused to communicate on any meaningful level with the Petitioner.

By way of example, there have been considerable difficulties in the marriage since approximately xNx, but the Respondent has refused the Petitioner’s requests to sit down and talk about these problems, in the hope of resolving them.

By way of further example, the Respondent has refused the Petitioner’s requests to attend counselling sessions in an attempt to save the marriage.

(k) The Respondent has displayed an unjustified and irrational jealousy towards the Petitioner, which has caused the Petitioner considerable distress. As a result, it has been impossible for the Petitioner to lead a normal social life.

By way of example, the Respondent has refused to allow the Petitioner to socialise occasionally with her own friends.

By way of further example, the Respondent has questioned the Petitioner closely about her relationships at work, and has falsely accused the Petitioner of having sexual or intimate relationships with her male colleagues.

(l) Since the xNx day of xNx 200xNx the Respondent has refused to sleep in the same bedroom as the Petitioner, and the parties have slept in separate bedrooms.

(m) The Respondent has displayed a lack of interest in and affection towards the Petitioner, which has led the Petitioner to feel lonely and isolated.

By way of example, the Respondent never displays any interest in the Petitioner’s activities, and never asks her how she is feeling, or how she has passed her day.

(n) The Respondent has displayed a patronising and condescending attitude towards the Petitioner, which has caused the Petitioner distress.

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By way of example, the Respondent has belittled the Petitioner by constantly making critical remarks about her in front of the Petitioner’s family and friends, which has undermined the Petitioner’s self confidence.

(o) The Respondent has displayed a hostile attitude towards the Petitioner’s family and friends, which has made it difficult for the Petitioner to maintain these relationships.

By way of example, whenever the Petitioner has invited her family or friends to the former matrimonial home, the Respondent has behaved rudely and aggressively towards them, making them feel uncomfortable and unwelcome.

(p) The Respondent has refused to share his social life with the Petitioner, making the Petitioner feel unwanted and isolated.

By way of example, the Respondent often goes out alone with his friends to the pub, and never invites the Petitioner to accompany him, and never invites the Petitioner to go out alone with him, for example to the theatre or to a restaurant.

(q) The Respondent frequently goes out alone at night, without telling the Petitioner where he is going, who he is with, or what time he will come home.

By way of example, on the xNx day of xNx 200xNx the Respondent left the former matrimonial home at 7.00 pm, and did not return home until the early hours of the following morning, after the Petitioner had gone to bed. The Respondent refused to tell the Petitioner where he had been, or who had accompanied him.

(r) The Respondent never helps the Petitioner with household chores, despite the fact that the Petitioner works full/part time (etc).

By way of example, the Respondent expects the Petitioner to perform all household duties, such as cleaning, washing, vacuuming, shopping and cooking.

(s) As a result of the Respondent’s unreasonable behaviour, the Petitioner found it impossible to continue living with the Respondent. Consequently, the Petitioner permanently vacated the former matrimonial home on the xNx day of xNx 200xNx since when the Petitioner and the Respondent have lived entirely separate and apart.

(t) The Respondent vacated the former matrimonial home suddenly and without the Petitioner’s consent on the xNx day of xNx 200xNx. Since that date, and as a result of the respondent’s unreasonable behaviour, the Petitioner and the Respondent have lived entirely separate and apart.

(u) We will ask you to give details of any further allegations once you order our service, if they are not covered above.

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