Playing the blame game

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27 May, 2020

Rachael Sutcliffe

Although there has been a lot of talk about a no-fault divorce, spouses who have been separated for less than 2 years still have to "blame" the other. They must satisfy the court that the marriage has broken down irretrievably using either their spouse's adultery or their spouse's unreasonable behaviour. To obtain a divorce based on adultery, your spouse must admit to committing the same. It is usual that people do not like to admit that they have committed adultery and therefore, most divorce petitions are based on the other person's unreasonable behaviour. Although it is possible to obtain a no-fault divorce, many people do not wish to wait for 2 years before petitioning for divorce.

There is no set list of behaviours that the court accept are unreasonable. It is subjective, so something that you may find unreasonable may not be to someone else. You must satisfy the court that your spouse's behaviour is so unreasonable that YOU cannot be expected to live with them anymore. We usually advise clients that they include around 6 examples of unreasonable behaviour, and no two divorce petitions are ever the same. However, common examples are:

  • Addiction issues. This includes drug, alcohol and gambling additions.
  • Suspicion of an affair. To petition based on adultery, you must provide that your spouse has had sexual relations with a member of the opposite sex. Therefore, if you suspect or are aware that your spouse has had sexual relations with a member of the same sex, you would have to base the petition based on your spouse's unreasonable behaviour, citing their affair as an example.
  • Failure to help around the house and/or with the children.
  • Issues with intimacy. Either not enough or too much!

There are some occasions, when a client will provide you with some examples of unreasonable behaviour that you have never seen before. On the 26 May 2020, the Daily Mail published an article on some of the most "bizarre" examples that divorce lawyers have seen. These are self-reported examples, as divorce proceedings are private, and members of the public are never able to obtain copies. Some of these unusual examples are:

  • The husband was feeding the dog too much and therefore it became obese. The wife saw a connection that if they had children together, he may feed the children too much and they may in turn become obese.
  • One husband petitioned based on that the fact that his wife constantly failed to clean the toilet after she had used it.
  • One wife petitioned as she had met her husband online, he told her that he was the Prince of Turkey and she flew to Turkey to marry him. After they had got married, it became clear that her husband was a con man, but she only became aware after she had given him around £45,000.
  • An 86-year-old man divorced his 82-year-old wife as she had a bingo addition. She would attend the bingo hall around 10-12 times per week.
  • A wife petitioned after her husband purposely, and without her knowledge, gave her meat and fish, although he knew that she was vegan.

Until the option of a no-fault divorce in England and Wales is available, more and more people will petition based on their spouse's unreasonable behaviour, and it is guaranteed that we will see more and more unusual examples of unreasonable behaviour.

For more information contact Rachael Sutcliffe in our Family/Divorce department via email or phone on 01772 220 022. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

Learn more about our Family/Divorce department here

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