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Unreasonable Behaviour – Proving Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage


In order to get a divorce, you will need to prove that your marriage has broken down irretrievably. One way of proving this is to show the Court your spouse’s unreasonable behavior. This article will give you information of what constitutes unreasonable behavior and how it is plead in divorce proceedings.
After establishing that you can get a divorce in Singapore, you have to prove that your marriage has broken down irretrievably in order to get a divorce. There are various ways through which you can prove the irretrievable breakdown of marriage, and showing that your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with your spouse is one way of doing so. It would not be enough to show that you and your spouse are incompatible. 
The Court looks first at whether you, with your characteristics, personality, faults and other attributes, can reasonably be expected to live with your spouse, or whether it would be intolerable for you to do so.
Next, the Court looks at your spouse’s behaviour and considers his or her acts or inactions that have affected the marriage. Your spouse’s behaviour need not be malicious in order to be unreasonable. 
Do note that if you have stayed with your spouse for more than 6 months after your last claimed instance of your spouse’s unreasonable behavior of your spouse, this may cause the Court to doubt your claim that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with your spouse due to your spouse’s behavior. In such a scenario, the Court may refuse your application for divorce.
What if the people around me think that my spouse’s behaviour is alright or acceptable, but I find his or her behaviour intolerable?

Since the Court looks at your personality and characteristics, it may not matter that others think his or her behaviour acceptable.


For example, you may be married to someone whose culture finds kissing other women on the cheeks and hugging others acceptable, but if you, due to your personal views and upbringing, find this intolerable, you should voice your concerns to your spouse. If he or she ignores or disregards your concerns and continues these actions, this may be argued as unreasonable behaviour in your opinion.


On the flipside, you could be married to someone whom you find unreasonably conservative. Your spouse may try to restrict your behaviour or control the way you express yourself, and you may find that this upsets your relationships with other people unreasonably. This could also be argued as unreasonable behaviour in your opinion.

What are some examples of unreasonable behaviour?

As mentioned, unreasonable behaviour must be seen as unreasonable from your perspective. This makes it very subjective, and some types of behaviour may be considered unreasonable for certain people, but reasonable for others. Here are a few examples that you may be able to relate to.


You may not be able to tolerate your spouse’s drinking habits; he or she may habitually drink to excess and/or come home drunk, or may act in a way you find unacceptable.


Your spouse may also constantly insult you, discourage you or belittle you, this could also be a form of unreasonable behaviour to you.


Other examples of behaviour you may find unreasonable could be where your spouse gambles excessively, or spends lavishly beyond your means. Your spouse may also refuse to work, or refuse to take care of the children, or refuse to help out around the house. You spouse could also be physically, verbally, emotionally or mentally abusive.

Case Study 1 on what amounts to unreasonable behaviour:
Mr X and Ms Y were married for 7 years and had one son. Ms Y was applying for a divorce and stated that Mr X was violent, aggressive and had a very bad temper. Among other things, Ms Y stated that Mr X would regularly verbally threaten her and her son. She cited an incident at Lawry’s Restaurant where Mr X threatened to punch their son in the face when he felt that their son was interrupting his iPhone game during dinner. Mr X later lifted their son up by the shirt and dragged him for about 5 meters when the child accidentally fell whilst playing. Mr X also pinned their son on the ground on a separate occasion and forcefully pulled their son. The Court found Mr X’s behavior unreasonable and found that the cumulative effect of Mr X’s actions on Ms Y was to affect her to such an extent that that she could not reasonably be expected to live with Mr X and granted the divorce on Ms Y’s claim.

Case Study 2 on what amounts to unreasonable behaviour:

Ana and Carlos were married for over 20 years. Carlos stated that Ana failed to discharge her wifely duties, showed no affection for him and had refused to have sex with him for a period of approximately 7 years leading up to the divorce. Carlos testified that he found it extremely humiliating to be denied a normal married life, and this caused him much emotional and mental trauma. He also stated that Ana was hot-tempered and extravagant, and was very cold and unfriendly towards him.

Ana was found to be aware that Carlos felt deprived by her refusal to have sexual relations with him, yet she continued to behave in a way she knew would adversely affect Carlos. Ana continued demanding maintenance of $7,000.00 per month and made Carlos leave the master bedroom although he was the one paying rent for the house, all while refusing to have conjugal relations with him even though she knew that it would affect him adversely. All in all, the Court found Ana’s behavior unreasonable, found that Carlos could not reasonably be expected to live with her, and granted Carlos a divorce.

If you are stuck in an unhappy marriage and are considering filing for divorce because of your spouse’s unreasonable behavior, you should be mindful of the requirement that the last instance of such unreasonable behavior must have occurred within the 6 months leading up to your filing the divorce application. It is advisable for you to seek the advice of an experienced and trustworthy divorce lawyer in Singapore to help you through this difficult time. Your lawyer will be able to guide you on what steps you should take in order to successfully get a divorce or effect some alternative action in order for you to move on with your life.

To learn more about other grounds for divorce in Singapore, you may read about it here.

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