Divorce me, please!
Posted on 25th July 2018 at 21:03
Marriages end for a whole host of reasons, some unsavoury, and some more amicable. However, no matter how friendly you and your spouse want to keep matters, in a society where we are encouraged to deal with legal matters as amicably as ever possible, no fault divorces still DO NOT exist.
Currently there is only one ground for divorce in England and Wales - that the marriage between the two parties has broken down irretrievably. The Petitioner is required to support their petition for divorce with one of five facts. Unfortunately, no matter which ground you choose to base your petition on, the Respondent spouse can choose to defend it and argue that the marriage is not over.
Tini Owens separated from her husband in February 2015, and issued a divorce petition on the basis of her husband's behaviour, relying on the fact that she could not reasonably be expected to live with him. Her husband contested her application and stated that the parties still had a good few years of marriage left, and he did not want to divorce Mrs Owens. Mrs Owens had alleged in her petition that Mr Owens had prioritized work over her and the family life, and that, among other allegations, he had ultimately made derogatory comments in front of others and had made her feel humiliated, and had decreased her self-worth. Mr Owens countered that Mrs Owens was only petitioning due to her affair (which she had commenced around November 2012) and argued that her new partner was pressuring her.
The Family Court dismissed her application for divorce on the basis that Mrs Owens' details of behaviour were not sufficient, and she was given leave to extend the details to include more extensive reasons. Her application was again refused so Mrs Owens, determined not to remain married, appealed the decision to the Court of Appeal who, again, dismissed her application. In May, for one of the first times ever, the Supreme Court heard the matter of Owens v Owens, a case relating solely to a divorce, rather than related financial or children matters.
After consideration of what the point of law being appeal was, the Court decided that they could not extend the interpretation of unreasonable behaviour to cover the effects of the behaviour on the spouse, rather than the current interpretation of whether the behaviour itself is unreasonable. This was one of the main points of Mrs Owens' appeal, but the appeal was allowed anyway as the Court felt that it would help people to clarify the law and provide guidance on future cases.
The Court have, seemingly begrudgingly, ruled that Mrs Owens is not entitled to a divorce on the basis of her husband's behaviour. The implications of the decision today means that Mrs Owens must now remain married to her husband until 2020, at which point she can petition on the basis of 5 years' separation.
Today's decision has unsettled the Family Law community, in particular the society, Resolution, who support the introduction of no-fault divorce, and has led to calls for the law surrounding divorce to be changed.
Many believe that the introduction of no-fault divorce, whereby no blame needs to be cast by either party, would bring the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 into a modern society, and would allow people to get divorced without casting aspersions or causing friction. It seems like such a trivial thing, but for many this change would literally change their lives.
So, if you want advice on how to progress with your divorce in the friendliest way possible, contact our expert Family Team on 01524 581 306 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
MG Legal - Your Local Family Law Solicitors.
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