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The Divorce “Blame Game”

The Divorce Blame Game

Under current divorce law in England and Wales, couples who want to divorce have to assign blame for a relationship breakdown most commonly either for adultery or unreasonable behaviour, unless they have lived apart for two or five years. This can make an amicable agreement between the couple more difficult and can have a negative impact on any children involved. Blame can bring out feelings of animosity, recrimination and injustice and take the focus from a constructive resolution of financial settlements and affect the parents’ ability to put children first.

On 17 May 2018, the case of Owens v Owens will be heard in Supreme Court.  The case highlights the need to introduce “No Fault Divorce”.

The facts of the Owens case are that the parties married in 1978.  Mrs. Owens petitioned for divorce on the basis of her husband’s unreasonable behaviour. Mr. Owens has contested, something which is rare. More unusual than that, is the fact that her petition has been rejected by both the High Court and Court of Appeal, where she was told that her husband’s behaviour was to be “expected in a marriage” and “parliament has decreed that it is not a ground for divorce that you find yourself in a wretchedly unhappy marriage”.

Baroness Hale, the President of the Supreme Court in her keynote speech at Resolution National Conference on 20 April 2018 has already indicated that the Court has no jurisdiction to change the law, only parliament can do that however she highlighted that the current law was criticised in the Law Commission’s Report in 1990 as being confusing, misleading, discriminatory, unjust, distorts the parties bargaining positions, provokes hostility and bitterness and makes things worse for children, who suffer most from parental conflict.

It will be interesting to see the outcome of the Owens case in which Resolution have been granted permission to intervene in support of Mrs. Owens but irrespective of the outcome, the resounding calls for a no-fault divorce will resonate.

Bina Mode, Accredited Resolution and Law Society Family Law Solicitor says, “I hope Parliament will take up the calls for change as expressed by those that have been through the process to enable parties to leave a marriage with kindness and dignity”.

Find out more about family legal matter. Call Bina Modi on 01858 462 462 or e-mail bmodi@josiahhincks.co.uk, Accredited Resolution and Law Society Family Law Solicitor and on  the National Committee for Resolution.