What is Unreasonable Behaviour in Divorce?: 12 Key Examples

Property division in broken couples can be emotionally and monetarily draining. Finding a fair divide can be difficult, whether the assets are business assets, investments, or a shared house. Going to court can frequently be more expensive, more conf...

No-fault divorce came into force in England on April 6th 2022, bringing to an end the need to demonstrate unreasonable behaviour in order to legally end a marriage.

The D8 application form now only requires applicants to tick a box stating that their marriage or civil partnership has “broken down irretrievably”.

However, there are still some remnants of unreasonable behaviour. For example, divorce applicants at risk of domestic abuse are told to make a sole application and can request that their contact details be hidden from their partner.

Let’s take a look at 12 examples of unreasonable behaviour. While these no longer need to be demonstrated in order to get a divorce, they still give a great idea of the reasons why many couples decide to separate.

12 examples of unreasonable behaviour

Remember, this is not a complete list. People choose to divorce for many different reasons. These are just some of the most common types of unreasonable behaviour cited in divorces.

1. Physical or Emotional Abuse

Physical and emotional abuse can fall under the general heading of domestic abuse, and can be directed towards the spouse and/or any children living in the family home.

2. Excessive Control or Coercion

Coercive control is also now considered an element of domestic abuse, and can include imposing rules on a spouse’s life, relationships, finances and other decisions.

3. Financial Irresponsibility

This is quite a broad term and can include everything from reckless spending, to gambling addiction, if it results in financial difficulties for the household.

4. Refusal to Communicate or Cooperate

This unfortunately still occurs in some divorce proceedings, and can see one party refuse to cooperate on issues like child residency, visitation and financial arrangements, all of which may in some cases be resolved via a process such as shuttle mediation.

5. Substance Abuse

Alcohol abuse and drug use can negatively impact the wellbeing of other household residents, and can be particularly harmful to children.

6. Adultery

Cheating – whether it’s a one-night stand or an ongoing affair – can destroy trust in any relationship, and is one of the most common reasons for divorce.

7. Parental Neglect

Neglecting parental responsibilities not only puts the welfare of children at risk, it can also put unfair pressure on the co-parent, who is left to ‘pick up the slack’.

8. Deliberate Emotional Distress

Deliberately inflicting emotional distress on a spouse can occur due to bullying, harassment and humiliation, leading the victim to end the relationship and petition for divorce.

9. Sabotaging Child Custody

This might not be as extreme as abducting the child, but can also include manipulation, such as trying to turn the child against their other parent or trying to use a minor as a bargaining chip.

10. False Accusations

A common feature of acrimonious divorces, false accusations can be hurtful and may even amount to slander or libel. Mediators can help to keep proceedings civil and ensure that such incidents are less likely to arise.

11. Property Damage

With emotions running high, parties involved in divorce proceedings may cause wilful damage to one another’s property. This can have significant legal implications, especially where the property forms part of the assets and finances to be divided in the divorce.

12. Isolation from Support Systems

Akin to the coercive control mentioned above, this is specifically about isolating the spouse from their support network, including family and friends, or otherwise limiting their access to supportive social interactions.


While unreasonable behaviour has been removed from the legal process of applying for a divorce, the behaviour itself persists and is the reason behind many separations.

In such cases, stress levels can be very high, emotions are generally very negative, and one party may feel as though they have no voice due to the coercive control they have suffered.

Mediators treat both parties fairly. We can use techniques like shuttle mediation to keep parties in different rooms, and will generally work to keep proceedings civil and respectful.

At Marcia Mediation we believe strongly in a principle of Dignity in Divorce. The introduction of no-fault divorce has helped to make this more of a reality in many cases, but as experienced family mediators, we know that it is often the expertise of a mediator that overcomes the remaining obstacles, allowing all parties to move on to a happier life. You can find a typical application here.

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