Supreme Court decision Owens v Owens – The politicians are at fault

The Supreme Court has announced this morning that in the case of Owens v Owens heard 17 May 2018 the appeal has been dismissed.

This means that Mrs Owens is forced to remain married to Mr Owens against her will.

She is a prisoner in her marriage!

The Supreme Court

Whilst the Supreme Court has, reluctantly, applied the law correctly, the fact that they have done so confirms there is now a divorce crisis in England and Wales, and the government needs to take urgent action to address it.

The Supreme Court was not satisfied that Mrs Owens had sufficiently proved that Mr Owens had behaved sufficiently unreasonably so that the Unreasonable Behaviour test was met.

The Problem

To get divorced, couples are legally required to assign blame for the relationship breakdown, unless they’ve lived apart for two years. This makes an amicable agreement between the couple more difficult and can have a negative impact on any children involved.

The 1996 Family Law Act did contain provision to end fault based divorce, but the politicians never allowed those provisions to come into force. These provisions have long since been repealed (completely scrapped).

Current divorce law is not fit for today’s modern society

It shocks many couples when they find out that, unless they blame their partner, they must wait 2 years for a divorce.

Blame can bring out feelings of injustice and recrimination, and evidence shows it can affect parents’ ability to put children first.

The Solution

Resolution proposes a divorce procedure where one or both partners can give notice that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. The divorce can then proceed and after six months if one or both parties would still like to proceed the divorce is finalised.

We support this. But change cannot happen until the politicians decide to pass new laws (whilst they are at it, they can do something to fix the increasingly broken legal aid system).

This is important – Divorce without blame will increase the chances of non-court dispute resolution, reducing the burden on family courts.

Many countries around the world – including Australia, the USA and Spain – allow for divorce without blame. Why can’t we have no fault divorce here?

Facts and figures

1.7m people have been compelled to apportion blame in divorce since failed attempt to provide no-fault divorce option in 1996.

In 2015, 60% of English and Welsh divorces were granted on adultery and behaviour (Finding Fault 2017) (60,000 cases!)

95,000 children affected by divorce in 2013 (ONS 2015)

Time for a change please

We are a progressive practice. We encourage the use of Mediation and Collaborative Family Law, but our job is made more difficult by a divorce law which goes back to 1973. Can we have a change please?

The world has moved on since 1973 and the divorce law needs to catch up.

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