Contested divorces are a rarity and that is hardly surprising given that, following two years of separation, marriages can be ended by agreement. However, they do still occur and, in one such case, a judge was critical of a husband who wasted family money in a vain attempt to prove that his wife was to blame for the end of their relationship.
The wife petitioned for divorce on the basis that, for 22 years of their marriage, the husband had been having an adulterous relationship with her best friend. He admitted as much, but lodged his own petition claiming that it was the wife’s unreasonable behaviour that had led to the collapse of the marriage.
In dismissing the husband’s petition after a costly three-day hearing, the judge noted that the couple both wished to divorce, and that could have been amicably achieved after the required time lapse. In the circumstances, the husband’s case was entirely futile and represented a huge waste of money. The prolonged dispute as to where responsibility for the broken marriage lay only served to prolong the souring of family relations and arose from the husband’s vanity and desire to control the situation.
In upholding the wife’s petition and granting her a decree nisi, the judge noted that the marriage was agreed to have broken down irretrievably. She accepted that the wife found it intolerable to live with the husband and that she had not done so since discovering his adultery. There was no truth in the husband’s allegations that she had behaved unreasonably. Describing the case as extraordinary, the judge observed that only about 20 contested divorce trials take place in England and Wales annually.