Stopping the divorce blame game

The Owens v Owens case has thrown open the debate surrounding “no fault” divorce once again. Whilst the Divorce etc. Law Review Bill remains up in the air, there are more cases appearing where there are simply no legal grounds for a divorce.

Under current law, a divorce will only be granted in certain circumstances. These include:

  1. Adultery
  2. Unreasonable behaviour
  3. Desertion – but only where a spouse has left for a continuous period of 2 years or more
  4. Where you and your spouse have lived apart for a continuous period of 2 years or more, although both parties must agree to the divorce
  5. Where you and your spouse have lived apart for 5 years or more, whether or not there is agreement on both sides.

Enter the recent Owens v Owens case. Mrs Owens filed her divorce petition based upon s1(2)(b) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 – or in lay terms, “unreasonable behaviour”.

However, based on the allegations made against Mr Owens, the Judge rejected the petition, suggesting such allegations were “flimsy at best”. Mrs Owens’ case was subsequently rejected by the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

It is a frustrating outcome but the law was applied fairly. It leaves the question of what to do in the event of a marriage simply breaking down for no specific reason. At the moment, there is no legal basis to implement a divorce in these circumstances, although it is hoped that cases like Owens V Owens highlight a need for change.

The Divorce etc. Bill calls for a review of the somewhat antiquated Divorce law of 1973 which underpins the grounds for Divorce and the dissolution of civil partnerships, and we will be watching its progress closely.

If you would like some advice relating to divorce or any other family matter, contact Downs Solicitors to see how we can help.