Q&A - My wife is divorcing me for unreasonable behaviour I haven’t committed!

Q: My wife informed me yesterday that she is to divorce me on grounds of unreasonable behaviour. How can she say this when I have never behaved in such a way and she is telling lies?

A: In order to obtain a divorce in the UK, a fact must be proven to show the marriage has irretrievably broken down. You may be disappointed by the choice of fact or reason for divorce, but unfortunately the unreasonable behaviour aspect is often the only choice open to parties if they do not wish to wait for two years or more to divorce, or if there has been no adultery.

Examples used to demonstrate unreasonable behaviour are not as controversial as you may expect and you will need to wait for the petition. The test the Courts use is whether a right thinking person would conclude that your wife could not reasonably be expected to live with you. 

Unreasonable behaviour can cover a wide spectrum of behaviour that is considered unreasonable to your wife. Examples of unreasonable behaviour could range from irritating habits or nagging, to violence or abuse, as well as other conduct in between these extremes.

The courts will also take into account the cumulative effect of the behaviour, for example perhaps your wife has experienced minor acts that may not individually be serious enough to satisfy the requirement of unreasonable behaviour, but when taken together are such that she should not be expected to live with you. 

Whilst you may be unhappy about a petition based on unreasonable behaviour, the Decree Absolute, or certificate confirming the marriage is at an end, will not contain the fact of divorce that had been relied upon. If you receive a petition, you should seek expert advice from a specialist family solicitor. Many firms are able to offer free initial consultations.

(Published 15/01/2018)

Leah Mountford

Leah Mountford


Part of the Family and Matrimonial team in Wrexham

Linda Hill

Linda Hill

Senior Solicitor

Linda Hill is based in our Oswestry office and was previously a partner with Stevens Lucas.