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Filing for Divorce & Responses — How Can I Get A Divorce

Filing for divorce is a difficult, emotionally charged decision, however, the process can be less painful when certain steps are taken.

If you and you spouse are able to agree on key issues like property division, child support, and spousal maintenance, filing a no fault divorce petition will make getting a divorce decree easier. An uncontested divorce is typically based on the no fault grounds of irreconcilable differences.

US Legal Forms offers affordable, state-specific uncontested divorce packages with the forms you need to file for divorce, along with easy to follow, step-by-step instructions.

Before Filing for Divorce How To File For A Divorce

Ideally, you and your spouse can come to agreement on important terms. You should pick an appropriate time and place to discuss matters and draft a property settlement and parenting plan.

As long as the judge finds your property settlement and parenting plan to be fairly and knowingly entered into, it will typically be incorporated into the final divorce decree.

If you have already prepared a legal separation agreement, that may also be used to incorporate into the divorce order. Key terms that should be covered include the following:

Property division of marital assets and separate property — The division of marital property can vary depending on whether you live in a community property state or not.

In a community property state, assets acquired before marriage, by gift, or through inheritance, are deemed separate property. However, separate property may be converted to joint assets through commingling, agreement, or equitable powers of the court.

In non-community property states, marital assets are not necessarily divided equally, the court has the power to make a division under equitable distribution principles of fairness.

Therefore, your property settlement agreement should state what assets are deemed separate property and how joint assets will be divided. Debts should also be listed and divided, stating who is responsible for paying joint debts and which debts will be paid separately.

Parenting plan — If you have children, child custody should be agreed upon, including visitation schedules and travel arrangements and expenses. Don't forget to include holidays and birthdays.

Child support — Any amounts for child support and terms of payment should be agreed upon if there are children. The agreement should also specify who will be responsible for insurance coverage and extraordinary expenses such as uncovered medical expenses and extracurricular activities.

Temporary alimony and/or permanent spousal maintenance — The amount and duration of any spousal support should be discussed. Temporary alimony paid before the final divorce decree is entered is often referred to as alimony pendente lite.

Any other matters deemed important.

Filing for Divorce How To Get A Divorce

Along with the divorce petition, certain papers must accompany the divorce complaint. A proof of service is attached to show that a copy was served on the other party.

To save time and expense, you may have the other spouse sign a waiver of service so that formal service by a process server isn't required for other divorce papers. Many states require a financial affidavit to be filed along with the divorce complaint in order to calculate support payments.

In some cases, a written waiver of financial disclosure may be signed by the spouses, so that the need for financial statements is dispensed with.

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Forms You Need To File For Divorce | Legal Templates

file for divorce

The typical divorce process takes place through the court system. You can either hire a family law attorney or handle everything independently. When you have an uncontested divorce, completing and submitting the forms to file a divorce without the aid of attorneys can provide significant cost savings.

There is a lot of paperwork that you must file before starting a divorce or legal separation. Some divorces, especially those that involve children, require more paperwork. There are two situations to consider when filing for divorce. You either file for divorce on your own, or file jointly with your spouse.

Whatever your situation, the best way to get started is to look at a divorce agreement and a divorce guide. Afterward, you can prepare the proper paperwork for getting your divorce finalized.

Forms For When You Want to File for Divorce on Your Own

You can file for divorce on your own without your spouse. There are various reasons why you may want to do that. One common reason is if you live in a “fault” state.

States where a divorce can be ruled the fault of one of the spouses require a spouse to file separately when they divorce. This is true even if both spouses want to end their marriage.

For example, if you live in a fault state, and your spouse has cheated on you, lied about material facts that affect the marriage, or abused you, you may want to file for divorce. You will need to do that separately, regardless of whether your spouse also wants to end your marriage.

You may also want to file for divorce on your own if your spouse wants to keep your marriage together or says they will file but then refuses to.

You will need to file court divorce papers yourself to start the process. Below are the main documents you’ll need to fill out and bring to your initial filing.

Family Court Cover Sheet

When turning in divorce papers to the family court, you’ll need to provide them with a cover sheet. Most of these sheets provide similar information, such as your name, address, and how the court can contact you.

To ensure you’re following proper guidelines, contact the court and ask them about their cover sheet.

Petition for Divorce

This is the actual petition whereby you request that the court grant you a divorce from your spouse. If you’re in a fault state, you’ll need to provide a reason why your spouse is at fault.

For no-fault divorce states, you can claim “irreconcilable differences” as the grounds for divorce. It indicates you no longer want to be married. Make sure to fill out the petition without leaving anything blank.

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Settlement Agreement

  • If you and your spouse can agree on settling your marital estate, it will generally be faster and easier for you to get a divorce.
  • If you’re filing by yourself, you can fill out the settlement information that both you and your spouse have agreed to or fill out what you propose.
  • Your spouse may disagree, and if you and your spouse can’t come to an agreement, the court may decide for you.

Summons Form

You will need to alert your spouse that they’re involved in a lawsuit. In this case, it would be a divorce. The summons form can be delivered to your spouse via:

  • USPS Certified Mail/Return Receipt
  • Restricted Delivery
  • Process Server
  • Court Officer
  • Local law enforcement authority

E-Filing Your Divorce Papers

file for divorce

Unlike the federal courts, which implemented e-filing over a decade ago, state courts have been slow to get on board, particularly in family law cases like divorce. Even in Los Angeles County, with a population of more than 10 million, you can't e-file a new divorce case. In much of the U.S., filing for divorce still requires you to file hard copies of documents (usually in triplicate) in person or by mail at the Court Clerk's office. That being said, social distancing practices because of COVID-19 are forcing many state courts to prioritize the implementation and expansion of e-filing until it includes all case types.

Mandatory vs. Optional E-Filing

It's important to note the difference between mandatory and optional e-filing. With the exception of Illinois and Iowa, when e-filing is available, it is only mandatory for attorneys, so people filing for divorce without a lawyer can either e-file or do a traditional paper filing.

It's also important to keep in mind that just because your state or county website says e-filing is available, that doesn't automatically mean you can use it to open a new divorce case.

Nationwide, e-filing rollout schedules tend to be broken into groups by counties and case type, so depending on the state, not all counties offer all case types.

As the table below illustrates, you can use e-filing to get a divorce (start to finish) in about half of the states. Unless otherwise indicated below, in those states e-filing is optional for people filing without an attorney. In Illinois and Iowa, all divorces must be e-filed, regardless of whether you have an attorney.

StateCan I e-file my divorce case?
Alaska No
Alabama No
Arizona Maricopa(existing cases only)
Arkansas No
California ButteCalaverasFresnoKern (Bakersfield)Kern (Delano)Kern (Mojave)Kern (Ridgecrest)Kern (Shafter)Kings (Hanford) Merced (Los Banos) Merced (Merced) NapaOrangeSan Mateo (Redwood City) Santa Barbara (Lompoc) Santa ClaraSanta CruzSLO (Paso Robles) SLO (San Luis Obispo)SonomaStanislausSutterYuba
Colorado No
Connecticut Yes
Delaware No
D.C. No
Florida Yes
Georgia Yes
Hawaii No
Idaho No
Illinois Yes (mandatory)
Indiana Yes
Iowa Yes (mandatory)
Kansas No
Kentucky No
Louisiana Only inSt. Tammany Union Lafayette
Maine No
Maryland Yes, except Montgomery and PG
Massachusetts No (contested 1B divorce only)
Michigan Antrim*Grand Traverse*Leelanau*Macomb* (mandatory)Oakland (mandatory)Ottawa* (mandatory)WashtenawWayne*(*existing cases only)
Minnesota No
Mississippi No
Missouri No
Montana No
Nebraska No
Nevada Clark
New Hampshire No
New Jersey Yes
New Mexico No
New York AlbanyBroomeChautauguaChemungChenagoClintonColumbiaCortlandDelawareDutchessEssexFranklinJeffersonLewisLivingstonMadisonMonroeNassauOnondagaOntarioOrangeOswegoOtsegoPutnamRensselaerRocklandSaratogaSt. LawrenceSchuylerSenecaSteubenSullivanTiogaTompkinsUlsterWarrenWashingtonWayneWestchesterYates
North Carolina No
North Dakota Yes
Ohio No
Oklahoma No
Oregon Yes
Pennsylvania Allegheny
Rhode Island Yes
South Carolina No
South Dakota No
Tennessee No
Texas Yes
Utah No
Vermont No
Virginia No
Washington Some counties
West Virginia No
Wisconsin Yes
Wyoming No

E-Filing Systems by State

Odyssey by Tyler Technologies is the most commonly used e-filing system in state courts across the U.S. It's already being used in 15 states, although in many of those e-filing isn't available for starting new divorce cases without an attorney.

Odyssey can be used to file for divorce without a lawyer in all of Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island and Texas. Odyssey is also available for divorce in at least some counties in Arizona, California, Georgia, Louisiana and Nevada (Clark only).

The following states use the Odyssey e-filing system, but have not yet made it available for people filing for divorce without an attorney: Idaho, Massachussets, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and New Mexico.

E-flex by Tybera is used in six states (Arkansas, Delaware, Kansas, Iowa, North Carolina and Utah), but only in Iowa can it be used for e-filing pro se divorce cases.

The eight Michigan counties that offer e-filing in pro se divorce cases use MiEfile powered by TrueFiling. However, with exception of Oakland and Washtenaw counties, you can only e-file documents in existing cases, but cannot open a new divorce case by e-filing. Alaska also uses TrueFiling, but divorce cases without attorneys cannot be e-filed there at this time.

Hawaii and Virginia state courts use the Judiciary Electronic Filing and Service System, or JEFS, but neither state currently allows you to e-file a divorce without a lawyer.

The Advantages of E-Filing

Less Paper

Depending on the state, five to ten documents will need to be filed to get an uncontested divorce by agreement. Then, you'll need a minimum of three copies of each of those documents—one for the Court's file, one for you and one for your spouse.

In a couple of states, if you have minor children together, certain counties require a copy for the prosecuting attorney for child support. With electronic filing, sometimes nothing has to be printed at all since electronic signaturees can be typed instead of handwritten.

Note: If a document requires notarization, you'll need to sign a hardcopy of the document at the Notary Public's office.

Besides the environmental benefits, our courthouses have reached capacity for file storage and are having to get additional space to warehouse court files.

24/7 Case Access

With traditional paper filings, if you need copies of documents from your file, you have to request them by mail or in person at the Court Clerk's office, and pay a per page fee for the photocopies. When documents are e-filed, you have immediate access to all documents filed in your case at any time free of charge.

Avoid Problems with the Court Clerk's Office

Some pro se filers find interacting with the Court Clerk's office intimidating.

With e-filing, you bypass direct interaction with the Court Clerk's office and eliminate the possibility for unpleasant interactions with busy and sometimes impatient office staff members.

In most states, the case number is assigned after the Court Clerk reviews and accepts your filings. Usually after-hour filings will not be reviewed and accepted until the next business day.

Another advantage of e-filing is that if there is any problem with a document, the court clerk will send you an e-mail detailing what needs to be changed.

When documents are filed in person, on the hand, the filing clerk usually gives very little information on what to do next.

In comparison, if there's a problem with divorce papers filed by mail, the court clerk will usually mail a written rejection notice to the filer. Because of this, if you aren't e-filing, filing by mail may be the second best option.

How to E-File

1. Register for an E-Filing Account

The procedure for registering varies depending on the e-filing system used in your jurisdiction, but all require the filer to create an account by choosing a username and password, and providing an e-mail address and basic contact information.

Depending on the state and county, you may then receive a confirmation e-mail with a link to click to activate your account before you can start the filing process. You will use your e-filing account throughout the divorce process to file documents and access your case.

It can also be used to file documents signed by your spouse.

2. Prepare Documents for Filing

All e-filing systems accept documents filed as PDFs. Some will also allow you to file Word documents.

Most DivorceWriter documents are in Word format because it allows documents to be edited before filing, if needed, and to type in electronic signatures (ex.

/s/ Jane Doe) instead of having to manually sign documents. Detailed information on preparing documents for e-filing is available here.

3. File for Divorce

Once you have registered for an e-filing account in your jurisdiction and have your documents signed and in the proper format, you will need to log in to the e-filing system to begin your filing.

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Before the e-filing process is complete, you will need to pay the filing fee with a credit or debit card, unless you are unable to pay the filing fee due to financial hardship and are also filing a fee waiver.

In addition to the filing fee that is charged by the Court Clerk whenever a new divorce case is filed, the e-filing service provider may also assess a small fee. A brief explanation of any fee charged will be shown before you submit your documents for filing.

Serving Your Spouse

Even though you can e-file documents, electronic service of documents is not usually allowed on parties who aren't represented by attorneys.

This doesn't cause a problem with uncontested divorce since most states allow the responding spouse to waive or acknowledge formal service.

In a few states though, formal service by the sheriff's office or a process service server is still required and cannot be substituted with e-service on a pro se party.

Since the Petitioner/Plaintiff spouse has already set up an e-filing account, it may be easier for the Plaintiff/Petitioner to handle the e-filing of any of Defendant/Respondent's documents as well. That being said, responding spouses are entitled to register for their own e-filing accounts and e-file their own documents as long as they follow the instructions.


How to File For Divorce Online (Step by Step)

Filing for a divorce online was something that used to be nearly impossible to do, but with the advances in tech, it has allowed for anyone to file an online divorce without ever having to leave your home.

With so many divorces occurring every year, many state judicial systems have implemented online tools and resources that may assist you in completing the divorce process. Although only a handful of states now allow you to file for divorce online through their website, there are countless services that allow you to file a divorce online in any state (Best Divorce services).

Steps to file an online divorce

  1. Initiate a divorce
  2. Provide legal notice to your spouse
  3. Decide whether your divorce will be contested or uncontested
  4. Decide whether your divorce will be DIY or if you’re get help
  5. Resolve the major issues — property, children, and spousal support
  6. Finalize your divorce

To streamline the process, we’ve reviewed the best online service providers

  1. ($139)

The number of states that have online filing support on their sites for divorce remains limited, but you can find out if your state has one by visiting the website of your local county or district court. If your state does not have an e-filing system for divorce, you may still be able to access and download documents from the court’s website.

After you complete the paperwork, you may file them at your local Clerk’s Office in person, by mail, or by fax (depending on the jurisdiction). In some states, you may not need to ever step into a courtroom after you file for an uncontested divorce. In order to go through the process of completing an online divorce, there are a few requirements that you need to know to qualify.

Requirements to file an Online Divorce

  • To qualify for to file a divorce online, you and your spouse must to agree to the divorce and are okay with working together. This means that your divorce cannot be contested by your spouse, and both of you have settled on all the property, support, childcare, and financial matters. If both of you agree to an Uncontested divorce, you’ll be able to go ahead and use an online filing service no matter what state your in.
  • If your spouse does not agree on all items regarding the divorce and is being difficult on the subject, try using a divorce mediator (Benefits of a mediator) to ensure that both of you are able to come to a reasonable win-win outcome. By using a mediator, this will also save you both thousands of dollars by not having to get attorneys.
  • If your divorce is contested, it’s in both of your best interest to go ahead and hire a lawyer.

What does it mean to file online?

If you’re interested in filing a divorce online, it’s important that you understand that there are two main ways of doing so. Filing through your local county’s website or using an online divorce service.

Let’s discuss these two options further: A very small amount of states have what is called, e-filing, which allows you to fill out the paperwork through their online portal, and you’ll be able to pay their fee when you submit your paperwork on their site. This is definitely the ideal way to do it, but it is not yet available in over 90% of states and makes going this route more of a headache.

  • PRO: Saves you time and allows you to finish your paperwork in one place.
  • PRO: Saves you money
  • CON: Don’t offer any assistance regarding your unique situation and making a mistake on the paperwork because you did not understand something, could be costly if you’re dealing with contested divorce, children or a request for support.

CON: Not as user-friendly as paid other options If your state does not offer e-filing, you can simply use a online divorce service to help you easily fill out the paperwork and have it reviewed to make sure everything is filled out correctly. These services are very popular on the web because they cut the time down to a few hours instead of days of you trying to figure out how to fill out the paperwork if you downloaded them from your states website.

How does it work?

How to Divorce — FindLaw

You’ve decided you’re ready to get divorced, but what do you need to do next? You need to learn how the process works.

While divorce is generallly an adversarial action, pitting spouse against spouse, the following articles and legal resources are tailored toward helping individuals navigate the process as smoothly as possible.

This section covers no fault divorces, where to file for divorce, serving and answering a divorce petition, the discovery and general family court process, divorce records and related privacy issues, child support and custody, divorce mediation, and more. You’ve come to the right place for an overview of the divorce process.

You first need to consider where to file for divorce. Typically, this is the county and state where one or both of you live. First, determine if you meet the state’s residency requirements.

If you or your spouse are in the military, you may file where currently stationed. However, there are rules to protect active duty servicemembers from civil lawsuits.

For more, read the articles on residency, eligibility for divorce, and military divorces here.

Completing and Filing Divorce Petitions

To complete the divorce petition, first consider whether you want a “no fault” or “fault” divorce. Fault divorces are for things such as abuse or adultery, read more in the articles below.

If you don’t have any kids or many assets, you could get a “summary” divorce. With children, there’s child custody and child support papers to complete.

Find articles explaining the types of divorces, the typical timeline, and even how to change your name in this section.

You can complete divorce forms on your own, at a self-help legal clinic, or with a lawyer. As you don’t want to unnecessarily waive your marital property, spousal support, or other rights, seeking legal advice is a good idea, especially if you have many assets.

Serving Divorce Papers

Once you’ve filed your divorce papers at court, you have to “serve” them on your spouse. Generally, this means another adult must physically give the papers to your spouse. You can use professional servers or save money by having a friend serve the papers for you. If domestic violence is involved, the police in some counties will serve the papers, without charging the usual fee.

Answering a Divorce Petition

Maybe your spouse just served you with dissolution papers. You still have the opportunity to tell the court what you do and don’t want in the divorce. Take care to “answer” within the deadline set by state law.

In responding, you can fill out the court forms yourself, at a legal clinic, or with the help of an experienced divorce lawyer.

If there are disagreements about what to do with children or property, consideri hiring an attorney.

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Mediation and Settling a Divorce Case

Many divorces settle with an agreement both parties can live with. Many states require mediation to help reach a property settlement and a parenting plan everyone can follow.

Even without a formal program, you and your spouse can use a “collaborative” divorce process from the beginning or can use an “alternative dispute resolution” specialist to help you settle your divorce, read more by clicking the links below.

Trial and Appeals

If your case goes to trial, you’ll need to present evidence, possibly including testimony from witnesses, so the judge can decide a property settlement for you. It will be easier if you’re represented by an attorney at trial. It’s also possible you want to appeal or modify a divorce judgment. This section provides articles on these topics as well.

FILING FOR DIVORCE: What You Should Know in the US (+ Free Tips)

Are you thinking about filing for divorce and are unsure how the procedure will go? While the weight of a failing marriage can be heavy for a multitude of reasons, knowing what options are available; the sequence of steps that follow can help lessen some of that burden. “A divorce is an option that formally ends the marriage and where the matrimonial courts; have the broadest powers to deal with the parties’ financial separation,” says award-winning family lawyer Laura Naser. “Unless there is hope of reconciliation; other significant reasons to warrant an annulment; or to prefer a legal separation, filing a divorce is often; the preferred option to end a marriage.”

The steps you take during the divorce proceedings will be determined by the divorce laws in your state. “It’s tough to tell whether your settlement expectations are acceptable,” Naser says.

“Frequently, spouses get into disagreements because they have incorrect information but believe they are correct; they can become entrenched in perspectives and disputes.

This is why seeking family law assistance as soon as possible can not only help you set reasonable expectations but; will also help you avoid these types of conflicts.

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The smartest thing you can do as a couple is seeking separate legal advice.

While there are some differences, we’ve put together a general explanation of the steps involved in filing a divorce case; from the initial petition to the potential of filing a divorce motion to appeal.

Short-term marriages with no children or marital assets to divide will get through the process swiftly; while others may take a long, drawn-out, and at times frustrating procedure.

Filing for Divorce

Because each divorce filing is unique, you may encounter challenges in addition; to these processes that are specific to your divorce. Continue reading for a complete overview of all the stages involved in filing for divorce.

Divorce vs. Legal Separation

Legal separation is a court-ordered arrangement in which a couple remains married but lives apart. “The pair’s status as [a married couple] is effectively terminated by the court. And they are no longer to live together “Naser explains.

“This alternative appeals to those who have religious or moral grounds for not filing for divorce.

But who wouldn’t want to legalize their divorce in the eyes of the law in some way? The court can impose some financial orders for the spouses, but not to the same level as on divorce; so it’s a more limited alternative.”

Some states do not have legislation that allows a couple to enter into a legal separation agreement. Until a judge rules otherwise, you are married in those states.

If your state enables couples to legally separate after one or both spouses leave the family home; your attorney will file a separation agreement with the courts.

This agreement safeguards the interests of both spouses and any children born during the marriage by ensuring that both parties; fulfill their legal obligations to one another.

Filing Divorce Process Steps

The following are the steps to filing a divorce:

Divorce Petition in Its Original Form

A document called a “Original Petition for Divorce” is submitted with your local court clerk to start the divorce procedure. This is known as a “Letter of Complaint” in some states. Both forms ask the court to grant a divorce and identify any relief the divorced party believes they are entitled to.

The parties to the divorce, as well as any children they may have, will be listed in the original petition. As part of the petition or letter, the party filing for divorce must specify a cause.

This will be referred to as “irreconcilable disagreements” or “incompatibility” in most states.

The divorce petitioner is referred to as the “petitioner” by the courts, while the other party is referred to as; the “respondent” or, in some states, the “defendant” by the courts.

Orders for Temporary Divorce

“A court has considered the application and determined that the spouses are entitled to a divorce; but they are not yet divorced,” Naser explains. “The divorce filing process has a built-in predetermined contemplation period, so the spouses must wait unless there are special circumstances; that warrant speeding the process.”

How to file for divorce in Nigeria – Grounds for Divorce

Knowing how to file for divorce in Nigeria is handy whether you want to file for a divorce or not in Nigeria. The sole ground for filing a divorce in Nigeria is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably (see S.15(1) of the Matrimonial Causes Act).

There are so many things one have to consider before filing for divorce in Nigeria. I advise you only file for divorce after visiting a marriage counsellor.

The step towards how to file for divorce in Nigeria

The mode the divorce will take will depend on the way the marriage was contracted. We shall be discussing divorce as it relates to Statutory Marriage (marriage under the Act or marriage at the registry).

To commence an action for divorce, you will need a lawyer to file a petition (with all accompanying processes). The High Court of any State in Nigeria has the jurisdiction to hear divorce matters.

how to file for divorce in Nigeria within two years of the marriage

So, let’s talk about the Two (2) year rule. The two-year rule protects marriage as an institution. The Nigerian matrimonial laws are against parties getting a divorce in less than two years of their marriage. These laws try to protect the family. The Court assumes parties are still in their honeymoon period and will therefore not hear a matter on divorce (there are exceptions).

Also Read: How to Register a Business Name in Nigeria

However, one might be in a situation where they have to file for divorce within two years of their marriage.

In such a situation you will need your lawyer to file all processes for divorce with the Leave of Court.

The Leave of Court will show the court the exceptional reason(s) why the court should decide on the matter. You can see S. 30 of the Matrimonial Causes Act.

Factors the Court will consider to enable it to determine a marriage has broken down irretrievably

We shall discuss the eight conditions that can convince the court that a marriage has broken down irretrievably. A petitioner should be able to prove one or more of these eight conditions. see S.15(2) of the Matrimonial Causes Act. Theses eight conditions are:

1. That the Respondent has willfully and persistently refused to consummate the marriage

Here, the Respondent has willfully and persistently refused to consummate the marriage. However, the petitioner must show that he/she has requested that the marriage be consummated but deprived continuously.

2. That since the marriage the Respondent has committed adultery and the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the Respondent

Adultery is a ground for filing a divorce.

However, the petitioner must show that they find the adultery intolerable. For instance, if you caught your wife/husband cheating on you and you decide to forgive him by living together peacefully; then later decides to file for divorce because of adultery, this might not succeed.

3. That since the marriage, the Respondent has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the Respondent. 

Under this condition, the petitioner will have to convince the court that the Respondent has exhibited some behaviours. These behaviours/patterns are behaviours that the petitioner will not be able to reasonably stay with. S.16 of the Matrimonial Causes Act gives us some examples of such situations.

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