The highly publicised case of Tini Owens – who has asked the Court of Appeal to overturn a family court ruling which said she couldn’t divorce her husband – reinforces the need for the government to introduce no fault divorce.
Despite making 27 allegations about the way her husband Hugh Owens, 78, treated her, 66 year old Mrs Owens, who was ‘desperately unhappy’ in her relationship, was told her claims were “of the kind to be expected in marriage” and was refused a divorce petition.
While three appeal judges, led by Sir James Munby, the most senior family court judge in England and Wales are yet to announce a decision after analysing the case, it nevertheless highlights the inherent problems with our current fault-based divorce system.
The chances are that, if Mr Owens had not contested the divorce, Mrs Owens would have been granted a divorce by a judge.
This is because under current divorce law, unless couples have been living apart for two years, one of them needs to apportion some form of blame – adultery or unreasonable behaviour – which can create conflict and makes reaching a mutually acceptable agreement much more difficult.
The introduction of no fault divorces – a legal separation that is granted by the courts without one person saying anything bad about the other – would make it easier for people to make their separation more harmonious and avoid court disputes.
Jones Myers founder, Peter Jones, has played a leading role in a campaign organised by Resolution – a national family law group which promotes non-confrontational solutions in family law – which saw MPs acknowledge that changes in family law are overdue.
Says Peter, who is a former chair of Resolution and one of the UK’s first qualified arbitrators: “It is correct to say that a percentage of divorces should be rejected but the standard of allegations of unreasonable behaviour has eroded over the years. The general view is that “if they both want it – why should a court stand in their way”.
“There surely has to be a better way via no fault divorce which allows couples to work together to manage their separation without long, drawn out, stressful court disputes.”
The case of Mrs Owens coincided with the news that the government has rejected widespread calls to reform divorce laws and has no immediate plans to change the existing fault based system.
Despite the announcement, Peter Jones is continuing to work with Resolution and lobby MPs to introduce no fault divorce.
Jones Myers highly experienced team of family lawyers can assist with the issues highlighted in the no fault divorce campaign along with all matters related to divorce and separation. You can contact the team on 0113 246 0055 or tweet us on @helpwithdivorce.