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Divorce – What counts as “unreasonable behaviour”?

Published: 01 February 2022
Time to read: 1 min

Most people know that it is possible to divorce a spouse on the ground of their “unreasonable behaviour”, but are less sure about what is, and is not, deemed to be unreasonable. Is, for example, a spouse’s infuriating snoring sufficient?

In Scotland the applicant must show their spouse has behaved in such a way that “they cannot be reasonably expected to cohabit with them”. That is, in general terms, a low bar and opens the door to a wide range of physical and verbal behaviour.

Conduct that would undoubtedly give a ground of divorce would include abuse of drugs or alcohol, the refusal of sexual relations, sexual relations with a third party and physical violence.

Other, perhaps less obvious, examples include controlling behaviour, persistent put downs or a complete withdrawal of any form of meaningful communication or emotional support.

The test is that the spouse in question must find it to be so difficult that he/she cannot continue, and that a reasonable person would feel the same way. This knocks out trivial behaviours. For the reasonable person, snoring is annoying but trivial and would therefore not be enough.

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