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Calls For a No-Fault Divorce – An update

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Calls For a No-Fault Divorce – An update

Following the article we published in June 2017 where we discussed the impact of a recent Court decision and calls for a no-fault divorce that followed that decision, there have been some developments in that case.

To recap, the case concerns a Mr and Mrs Owens who were married in 1978 and separated in 2015. Mrs Owens initiated divorce proceedings on the basis that Mr Owens had behaved in such a way that Mrs Owens could not reasonably be expected to live with him, in other words, she commenced divorce proceedings for what is termed “unreasonable behaviour”.

Mr Owens did not agree to the divorce and took specific legal steps to defend the divorce.  After a number of Court hearings, the Court of Appeal decided that Mrs Owens had not proved her case and would not be entitled to a divorce on the basis of unreasonable behaviour. Since that decision, Mrs Owens has been granted permission to appeal to the Supreme Court against the earlier decision of the Court of Appeal.

It is neither the scope nor purpose of this article to comment upon the reasons that Mr or Mrs Owens each have as to why one party to the marriage considers a divorce should proceed at this stage and the other party does not.

There has been much publicity surrounding this case in the media and the Court of Appeal’s decision has led to a number of questions being raised, in particular whether the current divorce law is somewhat outdated (it has been in effect since 1973) and if this should now be updated. It has been suggested that parties to a marriage could commence divorce proceedings on the basis of what could be termed a “no fault divorce”. The Court of Appeal in the matter of Owens said that it was a matter for Parliament as to whether the current divorce law should be updated.

Resolution, an organisation whose members consist of family lawyers who endeavour to adopt a constructive and conciliatory approach to dealing with family law matters, support the principle of a no-fault divorce and are urging the Government to take urgent action to update the current divorce law.

Mrs Owens’ legal team have disclosed that they will argue the emphasis taken by the Courts previously in trying to find that Mr Owens behaviour was unreasonable, was not correct and that the wording of the relevant law in this area is what they would deem in these circumstances to be a linguistic trap; that the law does not require unreasonable behaviour but simply that Mrs Owens cannot reasonably be expected to live with Mr Owens. If that argument were to be accepted, it could lead to a change in the current divorce law.

At the time of writing, it is unknown when the hearing by the Supreme Court will take place and the outcome of that hearing is eagerly awaited in legal circles.

If you are considering, or going through, a divorce we would urge you to take legal advice at the earliest opportunity. Our team of specialist family lawyers can help–call or email us today to arrange an initial appointment.

Joanna Illingworth
August 2017

This literature is intended purely as an overview of this area of law and no action should be taken upon it without specific legal advice.

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