The Blame Game!11-07-2018
Today’s judgement in the Supreme Court, about the high-profile divorce case of Owens v Owens, has thrown into question the very fabric of our divorce laws.
The ruling means that unhappy wife, Tini Owens, 68, is forced to remain married to her husband, Hugh, 80, for a further two years against her will.
The law currently permits a couple to divorce once they have been separated for two years if they both consent, or five years if one party does not consent. Otherwise, one side must blame the other by alleging that they have committed adultery or behaved unreasonably. Even if both agree that the marriage is over, they must apportion blame if they want to waive the two-year waiting period. This is often a shock to people who just want an amicable divorce.
In this case, however, Mrs Owens petitioned for divorce on the basis of Mr Owens’ ‘unreasonable’ behaviour during their 40-year marriage. Unusually, though, Mr Owens successfully defended the divorce and the court did not accept that the behaviour his wife had provided as examples was sufficient. An original judge dismissed them as ‘flimsy and exaggerated’.
The only option left open to Mrs Owens is therefore to remain in an unhappy marriage for two more years, when she will be able to petition on the basis of five years’ separation without Mr Owens’ consent.
Our divorce law is now over 50 years old and, as members of Resolution (an organisation of family lawyers who believe in a constructive, non-confrontational approach to family law matters) we believe it is high time the law is reviewed and brought into line with modern lifestyles and contemporary ways of thinking, so that a more speedy resolution can be achieved on a ‘no-fault’ basis. Such a change would allow people to divorce with less conflict and confrontation, which can have a devastating effect, especially on any children, while also allowing people to avoid feelings of injustice, recrimination or the need for acrimonious court proceedings.
We fully support Resolution’s campaign to ‘make no fault the default’.