family law Resources

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Unreasonable Behaviour Law Cases

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This is the most common ground for divorce nowadays, and the types of behaviour regarded as unreasonable are very varied.

Dowden v Dowden (1978) 8 Fam Law 106, CA
W petitioned for divorce on the grounds of H's behaviour: he was uninterested in sex, she said, and their physical sex was very brief and occurred only about once a month. The judge refused a decree and the Court of Appeal agreed: a low sex drive cannot in itself be regarded as unreasonable behaviour.

Mason v Mason (1980) 11 Fam Law 143, CA
After five years' marriage W refused to have sex with H because she was frightened of becoming pregnant; when H had a vasectomy W agreed to sex about once a week. Three months later H left to live with another woman, and obtained a decree nisi on the grounds that W had behaved unreasonably. Discharging the decree, Ormrod LJ said it seemed impossible to say that a limit of once a week was unreasonable.

Bannister v Bannister (1980) 10 Fam Law 240, CA
W petitioned for divorce on the grounds of H's unreasonable behaviour. He had not taken her out for two years, he himself stayed out at night without telling her where he was going, he did not speak to her at all unless it was unavoidable, and he generally led an independent life so far as possible. Allowing W's appeal against the judge's refusal of her petition, Ormrod LJ said the phrase "unreasonable behaviour" was a convenient but misleading shorthand. The test was not whether H's behaviour was unreasonable in itself, but whether it was such that W could not reasonably be expected to continue living with him.

Carter Fea v Carter Fea (1987) 17 Fam Law 131, CA
W sought a divorce because of H's financial irresponsibility, which were affecting her mental and physical health. The judge granted a decree nisi and this was upheld on appeal: the Court of Appeal said mere financial difficulties would rarely be enough on their own, but in the instant case the judge had looked very carefully at the particular facts and his decision could not be faulted.

It is not clear whether adultery can be regarded as behaviour justifying a petition under this rather than the previous subsection.

Wachtel v Wachtel (1972) Times 1/8/72, Ormrod J
After ten years of marital difficulties, W formed a relationship with a man M. H petitioned for divorce under s.1(2)(a), and (with the leave of the court) subsequently added s.1(2)(b) as an alternative. The evidence suggested that W and M had not actually had sex, said the judge, but the closeness of the association was such that H could not reasonably be expected to continue living with W. He therefore granted a decree on this ground rather than on the ground of adultery.