A recent Court of Appeal decision has caused uproar when the Court of Appeal refused a woman’s petition to divorce her husband of nearly 40 years.
Mrs Owens maintained that her husband was unpleasant to her, castigating her over a historical affair and disparaging her in front of family and friends.
In the landmark ruling, the most senior family Judges in England and Wales said that Mr Owens’ actions did not amount to unreasonable behaviour. They held that “Parliament has decreed that it is not a ground for divorce that you find yourself in a wretchedly unhappy marriage, though some may say it should be”.
The ruling means that Mrs Owens must wait 3 more years before she can qualify for automatic divorce on the basis of 5 years separation without requiring the consent of her husband. People may divorce after 2 years separation, but only with the consent of both husband and wife. The ruling, which Mrs Owens will now challenge in the Supreme Cour, has fuelled claims for reform of divorce laws as the Court of Appeal Judges in their ruling asked whether the time had come for legislation to be changed to allow for a “no fault” divorce.
Other Judges hearing the case dismissed Mrs Owens’ appeal “with no enthusiasm whatsoever”. One of the Judges stated, “I very much regret that our decision will leave the wife in a very unhappy situation”. The Court acknowledged that Mrs Owens will now be stuck in a loveless marriage for the next 3 years unless her husband takes the honourable and humane course urged upon him by the Court in granting her a divorce. The couple have already lived apart for 2 years.
It is hard to understand why one party could genuinely enjoy any aspect of a marriage from which one of them is trying to escape, but the Judges’ verdict hinged upon a strict interpretation of the divorce laws as they currently stand i.e. whether Mrs Owens could evidence that the marriage had irretrievably broken down. Mrs Owens’ lawyers argued that Mr Owens’ behaviour contributed to a “drip, drip effect” of being berated and humiliated.
Supporters of “no fault” divorce argue that the only people in a position to say whether a marriage has broken down or why it has broken down, are those who are party to it.
A “no fault” divorce would avoid the necessity of having to assign blame to one party and could reduce the stress of divorce. It is also much more likely to promote co-operation between divorcing parties when negotiating financial settlements and arrangements in respect of children.
Our family lawyer, Mrs Nia Thomas is a member of Resolution and actively promotes negotiation without the necessity of going to Court. Such an approach promotes keeping confrontation to a minimum which in turn, reduces stress and legal fees for the divorcing couple and their family.
For further information on what Resolution means or of any aspect of divorce or family law, please contact Nia Thomas on 01267 237441 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.