Fault-finding divorce lives on across the pond

Here in Texas, and across the United States, no-fault divorce is the norm. For those unfamiliar with the concept, a no-fault divorce is basically one in which the spouse seeking to end the marriage does not have to demonstrate specific grounds (i.e., adultery, cruelty, abandonment, etc.). Furthermore, a no-fault divorce can be obtained despite the objections of a spouse. In other words, if your spouse wants out of the marriage, they are free to do so.

Interestingly, this is not the case in England, where couples seeking a divorce must cite one of five categories for a divorce. These categories range from abandonment and adultery to something referred to as “unreasonable behavior.”

As it turns out, roughly half of all divorce cases in England are filed under this rather nebulous category, where one spouse essentially has to accuse the other of behaving in such an unreasonable manner that the marriage can no longer be considered bearable.

The problem with this scenario is that there are very few divorce trials in England, so that the spouses themselves must explain who is at fault and why (i.e., articulate the unreasonable behavior). These reasons — which ultimately have no impact on custody or financial arrangements between the couple — are listed on court documents and must be approved by a judge.

However, in an attempt to get the divorce approved relatively quickly, many people make outrageous claims and/or use the court documents to punish/humiliate their spouse.

“[People] put their heads together and say, ‘Surely we can come up with something that the court will agree on,'” said one London-based divorce attorney. “That’s when you get the sort of trivial nonsense like ‘He was late home from work’ and ‘He wasn’t supportive in the kitchen.'”

Indeed, some of the more extreme examples of unreasonable behavior cited in divorce documents include:

  • A woman claimed she hadn’t spoken with her husband in 15 years and communicated only by Post-it notes
  • A woman claimed her husband required her to dress as a Klingon from Star Trek and speak to him in the fictitious alien language
  • A man claimed his wife threw away his cold cuts and meddled with the television reception

Not surprisingly, divorce attorneys and judges in England have long lobbied for the adoption of a no-fault divorce law in order streamline the divorce process. However, lawmakers continue to remain opposed to such a measure.

For now, it appears as if things are unlikely to change.

Stay tuned for more from our Ft. Worth family law blog …

To learn more about dissolution of marriage, property division, spousal maintenance or other divorce-related issues, contact an experienced and skilled legal professional.

This post is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.


The New York Times, “Tuna again? In fault-finding England, it’s a cause for divorce,” Sarah Lyall, April 7, 2012