Unreasonable Behaviour in Divorce

What is “unreasonable behaviour” in Singapore divorce?

To show unreasonable behaviour, it is not sufficient to say that the parties no longer get along or are not compatible. Instead, you must show that your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot be reasonably expected to live with him/her any longer. In the following article we cover unreasonable behaviour as a grounds for divorce, along with examples of what can be classified as unreasonable behaviour.

Test for unreasonable behaviour

The test for determining whether a spouse has behaved in such a way that the other spouse cannot reasonably be expected to live with him or her was laid down in Wong Siew Boey v Lee Boon Fatt[1994] 2 SLR 115.

This test requires the court to ask if the plaintiff, with his or her characteristics and personality, with his or her faults and other attributes, can reasonably be expected to live with the defendant.

As stated, the test is an objective one that requires the court to take into account the plaintiff’s subjective qualities.

The question is whether the defendant’s behaviour was so unreasonable that the union has become impossible, rather than on any consideration of blameworthiness.

What are some examples and types of unreasonable behaviour?

Unreasonable behaviour can include:

  • The Defendant has been violent toward the Plaintiff.
  • The Defendant has threatened the Plaintiff with physical violence or has been physically abusive.
  • The Defendant has been verbally abusive towards the Plaintiff.
  • The Defendant is an alcoholic, drinks to excess, and when he/she is under the influence of alcohol, he/she behaves unreasonably and aggressively.
  • The Defendant shows little or no respect for the Plaintiff.
  • The Defendant is always criticising the Plaintiff without any proper reason.
  • The Defendant repeatedly insults the Plaintiff by calling him/her “useless”, “good for nothing.”
  • The Defendant is financially irresponsible and has failed to maintain the Plaintiff and/or the children properly during the marriage.
  • The Defendant frequently comes home in the early hours of the morning, reeking of alcohol and perfume. When questioned, he/she refuses to tell the Plaintiff where he/she has been.
  • During the marriage, the Defendant is a compulsive gambler, or has gambled to excess and has, on numerous occasions, caused considerable distress to the Plaintiff by getting into large gambling debts and dissipating the family’s savings.
  • The Defendant has borrowed money from the Plaintiff to feed his/her gambling habit.
  • The Defendant has no interest in the Plaintiff’s life.
  • The Defendant has formed an improper relationship with a woman/man whose identity is unknown.
  • The Defendant refuses to discuss the issues within the marriage with the Petitioner.
  • The Defendant shows no interest in talking with the Plaintiff and prefers to socialise alone with friends.
  • The Defendant is a spendthrift and has repeatedly spent money beyond the couple’s means.
  • The Defendant refuses to try and resolve the issues and continues to behave unreasonably.

The court will also look at whether there has been unreasonable behaviour for a long period of time. Some behaviour – while taken individually – may not seem serious or unreasonable. However, the court will look at all the series of unreasonable behaviour collectively to determine if the behaviour is unreasonable.

What happens if you continue to live with your spouse after the unreasonable behaviour?

If you continue to live with your spouse for 6 months or longer since the last ‘unreasonable behaviour’ that you mentioned, then you may be deemed to have accepted the behaviour, and the court may not grant you a divorce based on unreasonable behaviour. The logic is that you cannot claim that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with your spouse if you continue to live together for more than 6 months.

Do consult a specialist divorce lawyer

As the examples and instances of unreasonable behaviour are extensive, it is always prudent to consult a specialist divorce lawyer on the matter to check if you can get a divorce based on this ground.

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Dorothy Tan

Deputy Head, Family & Divorce Practice Group

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