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Supreme Court rules Woman 'must stay married' whilst family law experts warn of 'divorce crisis'

View profile for Lucinda McWatt
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Yesterday the Supreme Court unanimously rejected Tini Owens appeal to grant her a divorce from her husband Hugh.   The couple married in 1978 have two adult children, but as he is refusing to split up, they must remain married until 2020.

Lord Wilson said the case was dismissed “with reluctance” and that it was a question for Parliament.

Mrs Owens left the matrimonial home in February 2015. She stated the marriage had broken down irretrievably and that Mr Owens had behaved in such a way that she could not reasonably be expected to live with him. However Mr Owens refuses to agree to a divorce and denies Mrs Owens’ allegations of his behaviour.

Supreme Court president Lady Hale said she found the case very troubling but it was not for judges to change the law.

Current Grounds for Divorce

Currently the only grounds for divorce is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and to apply or a divorce solicitors have to rely on one of five facts:-

  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Adultery
  • 2 years’ separation and both agree to divorce
  • 2 years’ desertion
  • 5 years’ separation, even if your husband or wife disagrees

No Fault Divorce would reduce conflict

All our family law solicitors at Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers are members of Resolution and committed to helping clients deal with matters in a way that reduces conflict as much as possible.  They echo the comments made by the former Resolution Chair Nigel Shepherd which were that in this day and age, it is outrageous that Mrs Owens – or anybody – is forced to remain trapped in a marriage, despite every judge involved in the case acknowledging it has come to an end in all but name. Yesterday’s judgment underlines just how vital it is that government now urgently reforms the divorce law.

Lucinda McWatt, Family Law Solicitor says, “It should not be for any husband or wife to ‘prove’ blame as the law requires many to do – this is archaic, creates needless conflict, and has to change.”

Currently someone has to be ‘blamed’ for a divorce.  The new ‘no fault’ system would eradicate that and in so many cases would be preferable, especially where children are concerned, as no parent gets the actual blame.

Lucinda adds, “Many of our clients are shocked when we tell them that even if both parties agree that their marriage is over, an element of blame will need to be assigned to one party unless they wait for two years.  We find that some of our clients are worried that assigning blame to the other party makes it harder for couples to reach an amicable divorce."

The ‘no fault’ divorce would be a more administrative process, rather than a Court procedure.

For further information or would like to chat with one of our solicitors please call 0161 785 3500

 

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.