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FAQ's - How can I tell if my spouse is acting unreasonably

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What is unreasonable behaviour?
The behaviour of your spouse must be such that it is unreasonable for you to be expected to live together.

Unreasonable behaviour can include any of the following, the list not being exhaustive:

  • Verbal abuse such as name calling,
  • suspicion of an affair,
  • Financial impecuniosities eg. Running up debts,
  • Lack of sexual relationship,
  • Repeated criticism leading to a feeling of never being able to do anything right and a lack of self esteem,
  • Disrespectful or undermining behaviour,
  • Lack of emotional support,
  • Disinterest in your career,
  • Lack of support in maintaining a household,
  • Lack of financial support,
  • Violence.

The behaviour is what you personally find unreasonable. The test is what a right thinking person, looking at the particular husband and wife, would ask whether the one could reasonably be expected to live with the other taking into account all the circumstances of the case and the respective characters and personalities of the two parties concerned (Buffery v Buffery 1998).

It is good practice to give brief examples of behaviour. It is also good practice to try and agree the examples of behaviour given, before a petition is issued on this ground. This is not obligatory, but reduces the risk of acrimony caused by misunderstanding as examples of behaviour in the written word can be misconstrued.

Generally, you do not end up with more money because you rely on your spouse's behaviour as the ground for divorce.  Behaviour must be "gross and obvious" to be considered relevant when dividing up financial assets. This is largely because it is very difficult for a Court to quantify behaviour financially. If there has been a level of grotesque violence, or swindling out of assets or money, then the Court is likely to consider such behaviour as "gross and obvious", but generally conduct has no bearing at all on the division of financial assets ancillary to divorce.