Skip to main content

B. Unreasonable behaviour

“Unreasonable behaviour” is established as a ground for divorce where the court is satisfied that the respondent has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent. The behaviour could be both voluntary and involuntary, for example negative behaviour stemming from mental or physical illness could be such that it would be unreasonable to expect the petitioner to endure it, considering the capacity of the petitioner to withstand the stress, the steps taken to cope with it and the length of time bearing such behaviour along with the actual or potential effect on the petitioner. The illness itself is not “behaviour” so the petitioner needs to prove that the respondent has exhibited unreasonable behaviour as a consequence of such illness to establish a ground for divorce.

The burden of proof is on the petitioner to show that the respondent has behaved as alleged, then the court will decide whether it is reasonable to expect them to continue living together, considering the subjective effect of such behaviour on that particular petitioner. The court will consider whether this particular wife or husband would find it unreasonable, given all the circumstances and the character and personalities of each party. Thus, impact of a behaviour on the petitioner is considered, but not whether such marital conduct is good or bad.


Examples of unreasonable behaviour

Mild particulars of unreasonable behaviour are encouraged to reduce objection from the other side. Some examples are: the parties have different values and attitudes, failed to communicate, no common interest, failed to show love and affection, slept in separate rooms etc. which do not have to be blameworthy. It could be the cumulative effect of minor acts as the court will consider the entire circumstances of the case, so the behaviour does not have to be extreme or uncommon for the court to find a sufficient ground for divorce.

All kinds of domestic violence could be seen as unreasonable behaviour, including mental violence where no physical harm may be observed. A spouse intentionally and continuously using violent, abusive and controlling behaviour to the other, whether in the form of physical, verbal, psychological, emotional or financial means, could be sufficient evidence of “unreasonable behaviour”. Of course, the more serious the allegation is, the court requires stronger proof in evidence. A criminal record of domestic violence would be a strong piece of evidence in court, but it is not necessary for proving unreasonable behaviour, as there are many reasons why a criminal conviction may not be forthcoming.


Time limit for the proof

The petitioner must not be living with the respondent for a period of more than 6 months preceding the application for divorce since the petitioner needs to prove that the respondent has behaved in such a way, that the expectation of the petitioner to continue to live with the respondent is unreasonable. If you live with the spouse for a continuous period of six months after the date of the occurrence of the final incidence relied on by the petitioner, the court may form a view that the petitioner can be reasonably be expected to live with the respondent (it seems to suggest that the “unreasonable behaviour” is not so intolerable to the petitioner).