What is unreasonable behaviour during a divorce?

In Wales couples can’t divorce unless there is a “reason.” This is something that many people, including us, would like to see changed. However, as the law stands for now, couples can’t just say that their marriage has broken down, they need to provide a reason.

The reason can be desertion, or adultery (within 6 months), but if the marriage has broken down without these, then “unreasonable behaviour” is often used by couples.

What is unreasonable behaviour?

Unreasonable behaviour can cover a wide range of different situations. At one end of the scale there is violence, illegal behaviour, addiction etc. On the other end of the scale it could be not contributing financially, lack of sexual relations, stating that there is no longer any love in the marriage or refusing to socialise with family and friends.

There is no cut and dry definition for unreasonable behaviour and provided both parties agree to the divorce, it is extremely rare that the reasons are refused by the judge.

Does unreasonable behaviour affect the divorce?

A common misconception about “unreasonable behaviour” is that the person who has committed the behaviour will be worse off in the divorce as it is “their fault.”

However, this is not the case. For most behaviours the judge will still look to split assets as close to 50-50 as possible, and to fairly split time with the children as well.

For instances involving domestic abuse, either physical violence, or coercive control, the judge will consider the safety and well being of the children before anything else and will consider how much contact is appropriate with the abuser.

It can be concerning for the person “taking the blame” going into the courts, but the family judge is there to divide up assets as equally and fairly as possible, not to pass judgement on character.

Will everyone hear about the unreasonable behaviour?

The other worry for the person being accused of unreasonable behaviour is that it will be made public, defaming them in front of friends, family and the wider public.

However, the judge does not need more than one or two paragraphs of detail, any sensitive information can remain completely confidential and the reasons are not made public.

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