As Resolution’s Family Law members continue their campaign for ‘No Fault divorce’, the case of Owens v Owens rears its head again. Today, Tini Owens will say yet again to the Supreme Court “please release me” as she urges the Court to rule that she should not be expected to remain with her husband of 38 years. They have been separated for three years and there is no prospect that they will ever live together again.
If one party defends the divorce petition there must be a Court hearing to prove the particulars of unreasonable behaviour. This means the Court could refuse to allow the divorce if they consider that the particulars are not unreasonable enough. The net result would be that the parties would remain married.
In the Owens case, this is precisely what has happened and although a series of at least 100 examples of Mr Owens’ behaviour have now been pleaded, the Court still finds that they are not unreasonable enough to be granted a divorce. Judge Robin Tolson QC who first heard the case told Mrs Owens that 27 examples of her husband’s behaviour including jibes about her infidelity were “minor altercations of a kind to be expected in a marriage”. Mrs Owens’ solicitor has submitted on her behalf that the court should be focused on the effect Mr Owens’ behaviour has had upon her, not whether it was unreasonable.
As Family Lawyers, we now have to advise clients to ‘beef up’ their unreasonable behaviour examples in a Divorce Petition, in order to ensure that the divorce goes through the court. This flies in the face of family law protocol, which seeks to minimise conflict by agreement wherever possible at every stage of the divorce process.
Resolution (the national body of specialist family lawyers) has been campaigning for sometime to change this to allow couples to be in control of choosing that their marriage is at an end and thereby having a “No Fault Divorce”. This would smooth the path for couples and avoid the need to create conflict where none exists.
At Woodfines, we continue to support this campaign, and are now waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision on Mrs Owens’ appeal.