In this article we will explain what divorce “particulars” are, and what you might want to put in your divorce petition when completing it.

What are particulars?

One of the things that can confuse people when it comes to completing their divorce petition is the requirement to set out the “particulars” that support the basis (grounds) of the divorce they have chosen. 99% of divorce petitions are based either on the spouse’s adultery or unreasonable behaviour. “Particulars” are the reasons that justify the petition being based on that allegation of adultery or unreasonable behaviour.

Essentially, they explain to the court why you, as the petitioner, are entitled to a divorce on the grounds you have chosen.

The particulars an adultery petition based on adultery are quite different from those needed for a petition based on unreasonable behaviour.

What is the approach for writing particulars?

The aim with a divorce petition of any kind should be to meet the minimum requirements of what is necessary successfully to complete a divorce, rather than add an excess of detail, or a number of allegations that are likely to be hotly contested by the receiving spouse. There is no legal advantage to be gained (of any kind) in making allegations in a divorce: it won’t advantage you in any related financial or children-related proceedings. The only likely result of making the divorce petition’s contents something that will be seriously upsetting to your spouse is an increase in the level of conflict, which normally means a knock-on increase for you in delay, amount of paperwork, or legal costs (or, more likely, all three).

 

If you’re filing an adultery petition

It is easy to know when to use adultery as the basis of your petition: if the adultery will be admitted by your spouse, then an adultery petition is the way to go. If your spouse won’t be likely to admit the adultery (regardless of whether you have proof or not), don’t use an adultery petition. (Instead, you can use an unreasonable behaviour petition, and still refer to adultery / inappropriate relationship).

The particulars for a petition based on adultery are simple – they only need to state the fact that adultery has taken place (and, if likely to be admitted, that it is continuing) and to confirm a timeline that places the adultery within the 6 months immediately preceding the date of the petition.

An example of typical sufficient particulars for adultery is:

“The Respondent committed adultery in [February 2019] with a woman [man] whose identity is known to the Petitioner, but whom she [he] does not wish to name. The Petitioner believes that the adultery is ongoing”.

One important point to note is that the suggested draft above does not give a name for the third person with whom the adultery has been committed. The courts prefer litigants who do not name the third party (and again there is no advantage at all in doing so). Naming that thirdparty is guaranteed only to lead to delay and/or extra costs, and will not lead to any other satisfactory result. I highly recommend that you do not succumb to the temptation of naming that person, which might be briefly, fleetingly satisfying, but will in the long term be disappointing (for your wallet/purse, and your time waste in extra paperwork admin).

If you’re filing an unreasonable behaviour petition

A petition based on unreasonable behaviour needs a little bit more work on the particulars (which is why its easier to go with adultery where that is something that your spouse will admit).

In summary, you are aiming for 4-6 short paragraphs of different aspects of unreasonable behaviour. Each of those paragraphs need be no more than 2 sentences (see, that is short).

Try not to use this as an exercise in writing down everything that annoys you about your spouse – trust us when we say that every spouse can write that list, even in a ‘happy marriage’. Instead, you are aiming to write enough to get a judge to accept that the petition is entitled to go forward, without provoking a fresh fight with your spouse which will only waste your time and money (see ‘What is the approach for writing particulars?’ above).

In a related article (“Five good and five bad particulars for unreasonable behaviour”) we set out some actual real life examples, that you may be able to draw on for support, but in more general terms think on these questions:

  • Does your spouse lead a social life largely separate from yours (which you find upsetting), or perhaps combine your social life to the extent that you are not free to lead your own social life?
  • Has there been an absence of physical intimacy for the last X months?
  • Perhaps your spouse has stopped displaying love and affection towards you in the last X months?
  • Has your spouse formed an inappropriate relationship with a third party (regardless of whether there has been adultery)?
  • It may be that your spouse has told you recently that he/she wants a divorce, leading you to feel your marriage is over.
  • Perhaps your spouse has moved out, or asked you to move out, and there is no agreement that you will live together again?

Each of these would be individually sufficient to count towards your 4-6 particulars. Remember, a judge basically wants to grant your divorce petition if he/she can – just give them enough so that they can feel there is something there.