The case of Owens v Owens has raised concern among family law experts who are warning of a ‘divorce crisis’ after The Supreme Court denied an appeal by Mrs Owens, forcing her to remain married to Mr Owen.
As a member of Resolution, an organisation which promotes a non-confrontational approach to resolving family difficulties, I support these concerns.
In divorce proceedings there is only one ground for divorce and that is that the marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down’. This leaves many people reliant on filing for divorce on the fact of unreasonable behaviour where there must be several strong examples to support the application.
If, as in Mrs Owens’ case, you can’t demonstrate that your spouse has behaved in a way that you can’t reasonably be expected to live with, the courts cannot grant the divorce
With over 100,000 divorces filed each year in the UK, affecting 95,000 children, I would prefer to see the introduction of a no fault divorce, where there is no need to assign blame, avoiding the feelings of injustice and recrimination and the adverse effect this has on children and families.
In the case of Owens V Owens the judges highlighted the troubling nature of the appeal and commented that it generated ‘uneasy feelings’, but reiterated that their judgment was bound by the current legal framework, leading to them urging Parliament to consider changing the law.
The Supreme Court applied the law correctly, but in doing so highlighted the need for reform to remove the current need for couples to ‘prove’ blame and create unnecessary conflict and emotional distress.
Last week, Baroness Butler-Sloss launched a Private Members Bill committing the Lord Chancellor to review the current divorce law. It remains to be seen whether the government will support this reform, but there is every hope that that it will as there is an immediate need to stop the unnecessary additional distress in what is already an emotional and traumatising time for separating families.
In cases such as these, I can’t overstate the importance of having an expert family solicitor working with you to ensure you have a strong divorce petition and the evidence required.