Kate Butler, divorce lawyer Northampton
Unreasonable behaviour is one of the most common facts that is relied on when people are bringing a divorce petition. Under the law of England and Wales in fact there is only one test for a divorce which is that the marriage is irretrievably broken down but you have to rely on one of five different facts when you bring your petition to the Court. I often say to clients that every marriage has got unreasonable behaviour in it even my own so it shouldn’t be too difficult to come up with examples of things and they don’t have to be too serious an allegation to go into the petition. There is quite a lot of advantages to using unreasonable behaviour rather than using some of the other factors for divorce; with adultery you need to be satisfied the other person is going to admit to it; with two years separation you have to be satisfied they are going to cooperate and provide their consent.
With unreasonable behaviour it is fine for the other person to write on their response that they don’t accept what you say and perhaps that they feel that you have behaved badly as well and that doesn’t matter. So long as you can satisfy the Court they have had the chance to respond then you will be able to go ahead with your divorce.
We discourage people from using things which are too inflammatory when they are putting their examples in their petition, trying to criticise the other person as a parent, trying to suggest they might be aggressive or that they spend too much money can sometimes be inflammatory.
We use various techniques to try and keep things as amicable as possible. We show people the allegations in advance so that they don’t see it for the first time when they get it through from the court and we try to make sure that we tone down the amount of allegations that we make to three, four, five, six certainly we don’t need pages and pages of allegations about the other person. So all in all unreasonable behaviour has got advantages. You don’t need to wait for any particular length of time before you start the petition, so long as you’ve been married for a year, most people would be able to bring the divorce on the basis of unreasonable behaviour.