The recent Supreme Court decision of Tini Owens raises the thorny issue of whether the current divorce law should be changed to include a ‘no fault’ option for parties who want to get divorced.
Currently there is only one ground for divorce, the marriage has broken down irretrievably. The party starting the divorce must choose from one of five facts to prove that ground. These are adultery, unreasonable behaviour, two years separation with both parties consenting, five years separation and finally desertion.
If, like in Tini Owens case, you have a spouse that does not want a divorce, has not committed adultery and you have not been separated for over 5 years, then your only fact to use would be unreasonable behaviour. To prove this you have to cite reasons why you can no longer remain living your spouse due to their behaviour being unreasonable.
In Tini Owens case the Supreme Court judges unanimously rejected her appeal against a decision that said Mr Owens behaviour, as cited by Mrs Owen in her divorce petition, was not unreasonable. By not allowing the divorce to continue it left Mrs Owens in the difficult position of being ‘locked in’ a marriage which she found unhappy and which she could not end.
Time to stop the blame game?
If there were a possibility for a no fault divorce then it would allow those like Mrs Owens to simply divorce their spouse without blaming each other and without having to be separated for five years, assuming the spouse does not consent to a divorce based on two years separation.
The decision of the Supreme Court is not likely to be a popular one with the people, but unless Parliament changes the law it will continue to be an issue.
Jenny Sharma, our Head of Family Law has over 15 years of experience in family law and provides a first free interview to all new clients. To book an appointment contact Jenny direct at firstname.lastname@example.org or the offices of JM Wilson Solicitors on 0121 356 4556.