How do you divorce amicably on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour?

Unreasonable Behaviour and Getting Divorced. 

You may have read about the recent case that went to the Court of Appeal, involving Tini Owens and her mushroom farming millionaire husband Hugh Owens. Tini was refused a divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour and must now wait five years before she can get a divorce without Mr Owen’s consent.

In this day and age, it is ridiculous that a person cannot get divorced if they want one and whilst there was no doubt that Mrs Owens was in a loveless, unhappy marriage, she had failed to prove to the judge that Mr Owens “has behaved in such a way that [she] cannot reasonably be expected to live with [him].”

The initial grounds for the divorce are listed below:

“1 The Respondent prioritised his work over home life and was often inflexible in making time available for the family, often missing family holidays and family events. This has caused the Petitioner much unhappiness and made her feel unloved.

2 During the latter years of the marriage the Respondent has not provided the Petitioner with love, attention or affection and was not supporting of her role as a homemaker and mother which has made the Petitioner feel unappreciated.

3 The Respondent suffers from mood swings which caused frequent arguments between the parties which were very distressing and hurtful for the Petitioner who has concluded that she can no longer continue to live with the Respondent.

4 The Respondent has been unpleasant and disparaging about the Petitioner both to her and to their family and friends. He speaks to her and about her in an unfortunate and critical and undermining manner. The Petitioner has felt upset and/or embarrassed by the Respondent’s behaviour towards her as well as in front of family and friends.

5 As a result of the Respondent’s behaviour towards her, the Petitioner and the Respondent have until recently lived separate lives under the same roof for many years and have not shared a bedroom for several years. On 10 February 2015 the Petitioner moved into rented accommodation and the parties have been living separate and apart since that date.”

Anyone who has worked in family law will recognise the above as replicable examples used in a divorce petition. The main difference with this divorce and the ones that we deal with at Divorce Friend or Surrey Mediation Service is that the husband in this case decided to defend the case. In doing so, he has caused more distress and expense to both him and his wife, who will undoubtedly separate from him and as the appeal judge noted “On any view, the marriage is over. I can only hope that he will relent and consent to a divorce on the grounds the parties have lived apart for a continuous period of two years, rather than force his wife to wait until five years have elapsed.”

So, what can you do if you want to get a divorce yet neither of you have committed adultery, but for the sake of your stress levels, children and for some financial certainty in your life, you want to move on now and not have to wait two or five years to get a divorce?

Divorce Friend or family mediation can certainly help you here. We can agree with both of you what the grounds for unreasonable behaviour will be:

  • We will help you to come up with 5 or 6 recent examples that are considered unreasonable but are not a character assassination of the respondent.
  • We will have a solicitor check the grounds before they go to court to make sure the judge will accept them.
  • We will reassure you that the grounds make no difference to the parenting or financial agreements that you reach (unless extreme examples, such as drug addiction or gambling the former marital home away).
  • We will work with your solicitor to ensure that you do not have to accept the examples, but will sign them, in order to assist with the divorce process.
  • We will advise you that the examples used will not be made public and will not be investigated by the court - you will not be questioned on them as you would a criminal allegation.

Each week, we have to go through the circus of agreeing 5 or 6 examples of unreasonable behaviour with our clients. They must be unique to the clients (we cannot just cut and paste from a list these days) and it can be embarrassing and awkward for a couple to discuss matters such as “he does not want to have sex with me anymore”, when all they want to do is get an amicable divorce as quickly, cost effectively and fairly as possible.

So our suggestion is you wish to get divorced without waiting 2 or even worse, 5 years, then you can do so, but you just both need to agree to it. We can then help you work out who will petition and respond, what the best grounds for you case are and ensure you are both in agreement with the grounds, before you see them on a sealed court petition. And unlike solicitors, we do this last of all, once all your parenting and financial arrangements have been agreed to avoid further conflict.

Here are some examples of some recent grounds our clients have used:

On the (recent date) the respondent shouted at me whilst we were out shopping. This made me feel embarrassed and scared. He continued shouting even when I asked him to stop and passers-by were looking at us with concern and shock.

The respondent has consistently declined to have a physical relationship with me over the last few years. By way of example on (recent date) on our anniversary, I asked the respondent if he would like to have a romantic dinner and sleep in the same bed together. The respondent laughed and said that it was a bit too late for that sort of thing. This left me feeling unloved, unwanted and unattractive.

The respondent does not communicate with me in any meaningful way. By way of example, on (recent date) he came back from work and sat in front of the television until he fell asleep, making no attempt to engage in civil conversation with me. The respondent gives one word answers to my questions on how his day has been and declines to talk to me about the matters important to my life. This leaves me frustrated, angry and unappreciated in our marriage.

If you want to get a divorce and you can both agree that you want to leave as much money in the family pot as possible, then Divorce Friend or Mediation will help you to achieve this.

You can call us on 0330 999 0313 or email us

Full details of the court of appeal judgement on Owens vs Owens can be found here




Ready for the next step?