No Fault Divorce – Owens v Owens

No Fault Divorce

Why is no fault divorce in the news?

The Government is considering no fault divorce because our current system isn’t working well. If you want to divorce you have to rely on a reason:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Two years separation with consent
  • Desertion
  • Five years separation without consent

Unsure which reason to rely on? See my blog Grounds for divorce – 5 things you need to know

Why has the Government decided to look at no fault divorce?

Resolution (an organisation committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes) has been lobbying for no fault divorce for years. And the case of Owens v Owens has been in the news.

What is Owens v Owens about?

Mrs Owens wants to divorce her husband. She gave twenty seven examples of his unreasonable behaviour: he is moody, argumentative and disparaging. But he defended the divorce saying the marriage wasn’t over, and he disputed the behaviour his wife had mentioned.

The Judge disagreed with Mr Owens – the marriage was clearly over – but he said the examples of behaviour were flimsy and exaggerated and Mrs Owens could not have her divorce. This meant she would have to stay married to Mr Owens. She appealed.

What happened when Mrs Owens appealed?

On 25 July 2018 the Supreme Court said the Judge was right when he said her reasons weren’t good enough. But the Supreme Court also said it felt “uneasy” and that “Parliament may wish to consider whether to replace a law which denies to Mrs Owens … a divorce”.

What’s the solution for Mrs Owens?

She will have to stay married to Mr Owens until they have lived apart for five years.

What is the Government doing? 

The Ministry of Justice has published a consultation paper, Reform of the legal requirements for divorce. They are asking whether divorce should simply be on the ground of irretrievable breakdown with no need to mention reasons. And whether the ability to ‘defend’ a divorce should end. The consultation closes 10 December.

Why is no fault divorce a good idea?

  • Angry spouses won’t be able to block divorces
  • People won’t have to stay married when they don’t want to
  • There will be less conflict
  • Couples will be able to concentrate on what is best for the children
  • They will be more likely to reach an amicable agreement about the finances, by negotiation, mediation or collaborative law
  • Our current divorce system dates to 1969. We live in a very different society and women are seen as equal partners in a marriage
  • Legal bills will be lower
  • There will be fewer contested divorces. Our Courts are stretched and so this might make everything a bit better for all of us

Is no fault divorce going to make more people divorce?

The breakdown of a relationship is hard enough as it is without the Court procedure adding to the difficulties. And in reality couples often agree how to word their divorces. “I’ll admit to adultery,” or “You can mention that unreasonable behaviour.”

Why is divorce an important stage in agreeing the finances? 

A Court order finalising the finances is only available once the first divorce decree has been granted (the “decree nisi”). Hence it’s a good idea to sort out the divorce and the finances at the same time. See my blog What Comes First Divorce Or Settlement

Can I do the divorce myself? 

Yes. But if you are struggling read my blog 10 reasons why you need a family law solicitor to check your DIY divorce petition

No Fault Divorce

Contact  Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for free advice on any of the issues raised in this blog. In this 20 minute session we will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family law solicitors offering personalised legal solutions. We offer collaborative law which is especially relevant in providing solutions tailored to your family’s needs. This includes same sex couples and their families. Visit our website The topics covered in this blog post are complex and are provided for general guidance only. Therefore if any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog have application to you, seek expert legal advice.

image Couple by Muramasa on Wikimedia

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