The Case: Owens v Owens
On 17 May the case of Owens v Owens took place in the Supreme Court. Mrs Owens had been denied a divorce on the grounds that her husband’s behaviour was not deemed ‘unreasonable’ enough for the purposes of the divorce petition. She appealed this decision and the outcome is eagerly awaited.
Mr and Mrs Owens separated in February 2015 and Mrs Owens tried to divorce her husband on the basis of his behaviour. He defended the divorce, which is unusual in itself, and the Judge felt that Mr Owens’ behaviour was insufficient to justify granting a divorce. Mrs Owens was told that her husband’s behaviour “was to be expected in a marriage”. If Mrs Owens is unsuccessful she will need to wait until February 2020 to seek a divorce, which will then be based on being separated for five years and she describes herself as being “unloved, isolated and alone” and “locked” in an unhappy marriage.
Renewed Campaigning for No Fault Divorce?
This case has led to renewed campaigning to introduce “no fault divorce” in England and Wales. The sole ground for divorce is, and has been for almost 50 years, that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. However, this has to be established by proving one of five “facts” – adultery, behaviour, desertion for two years, separation for two years with consent of both parties or separation for five years where there is no consent. Therefore if a couple has been separated for less than two years the only options for divorce are unreasonable behaviour or adultery.
Campaigners say there should be a “no fault” divorce, which would create a sixth option and they say would shift the focus to the wellbeing of children and financial settlements rather than proving blame.
However there are ways of ensuring that a divorce proceeds as smoothly as possible, whether the law changes or not. We can advise you on how to achieve the best possible outcome. Please contact our experts for a free initial consultation.