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24 SEP 2013

Unreasonable behaviour now claimed in almost half of divorces

A new study has shown that a higher proportion of divorces are now sought on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour than on adultery.

In 2013 unreasonable behaviour is cited in 47% of divorces and adultery in just 15%.

This is a sea-change from the 1970s when 29% of divorce petitions cited adultery and 28% were based on claims of unreasonable behaviour. Men are also now five times more likely to divorce their wives for unreasonable behaviour than they were in the 1970s.

Co-Operative Legal Services analysed around 5m divorce cases to arrive at these conclusions, comparing the grounds for divorce over the past five decades. Christina Blacklaws, director of policy at Co-Operative Legal Services commented that although the legal basis for divorce has not altered, social attitudes to the subject have and the traditional stigma is fading.

As it is not possible under UK law to divorce on the basis of "irreconcilable differences", it is possible that petitioning for divorce based on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour is the only option available to couples who wish to divorce quickly, without enduring a 2-year separation first. This may go some way to explaining the increase in its use, along with increased recognition of domestic violence or abuse and the forms, both physical and non-physical, that this may take.