Time for a change in the law?
The eagerly awaited case of Owens v Owens has started today at the Supreme Court in London. This is likely to prompt renewed pressure on the government to change the ‘outdated’ family law.
In this particular case, the lower court had refused to grant Tini Owens a decree nisi (an interim divorce order) despite the court finding the marriage had broken down; and the Court of Appeal ruled it could not interfere with that decision.
The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land and Lady Hale, Supreme Court President, has described this divorce case as a ‘rare example of the court rejecting a behaviour petition on the ground that the husband’s behaviour was not objectively bad enough to make it unreasonable for the wife to live with him’.
Mrs Owens’ divorce petition was based on the fact that Mr Owens had behaved in such a way that she could not reasonably be expected to live with him. This law goes back to 1973, which is more than 45 years old now. However, even in 2018, concept remains that couples need to satisfy a court that there is ‘blame’ unless they wait 2 years to divorce under a separation ground by consent (or 5 years without consent). A lot of commentators, including myself have called current law ‘outdated‘ and ‘unfair‘.
Whilst this case of Owens is not about a ‘no fault’ divorce itself, there are certainly policy issues about what the law ought to be and if the outcome is successful for Tini Owens, or indeed if there is a future change of law to a no fault basis, this is likely to mean there is less need for a party to cite rather unpleasant details of how the other behaved and which is presently overspills into the financial and any children issues that need to be resolved.
I would certainly welcome a change of the law to avoid ‘blame’ and how we can focus on moving forward with our lives but without making marriage itself too disposable. What do you think? I’d be interested to hear any comments.
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For specialist advice on any family law related issue contact Maguire Family Law by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone: