What is behaviour in Divorce?

“Behaviour” is the term used to describe the fact that a person has behaved in such a way that their partner/spouse cannot reasonably be expected to live with them.

It is important to understand there is no definitive list of unreasonable behaviours used in divorce petitions. It could be one or two serious incidents, to many more petty issues. In reality the courts take a very pragmatic view – if two people no longer wish to be married, there has undoubtedly been some form of behaviour (however extreme or minor) which has led them deciding on a divorce or dissolution of their relationship.

Where there is a long history of unreasonable conduct the usual rule is to rely on the first, worst and last events. You also have to be careful how you draft the allegations, as these may aggravate an already sensitive situation and also have an impact on any children. Best practice is to try and agree the content of the allegations with the Respondent beforehand.

The most common examples of behaviour include:

Domestic abuse
Excessive/lack of sex
Unreasonable sexual demands
Inappropriate association/relationship with another person
Debt/financial recklessness
Verbal abuse, shouting or belittling
Social isolation
Excessive/lack of socialising

In many cases relationships can drift apart without there being any extreme behaviour such as those above. In these instances it is necessary to find other less serious behaviours. For example :

The Respondent is unemployed and so always under the Petitioner’s feet
The Respondent works long hours and so is always out working and never at home
Excessive DIY has been used as an unreasonable behaviour
Preferring to spend time with a pet rather than the Petitioner
The Respondent is dictatorial

What is the time frame for using unreasonable behaviour?

If you continue cohabiting with your spouse, for a cumulative period of more than 6 months after the last alleged behaviour, the Court may refuse to grant the Petition as part of the consideration of whether you can reasonably be expected to live with the Respondent. The longer the cohabitation, the less likely the Petition will be granted and the better an explanation is likely to be required.

Living in the same house is not the same as cohabitation. If you do continue to live under the same roof, as long as you live separate lives, the six month time frame may be disregarded. Separate lives means things like not sleeping in the same bed, not eating meals together and not doing the other person’s washing or washing up. The longer you are living separately in the same house the more concerns the Court may have with regard to allowing a divorce/dissolution using the fact of behaviour.

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