As discussed in our previous blog, the widely reported case of Tini and Hugh Owens has attracted much criticism of current divorce law.
The judgment is now in and, despite highly critical comments about the state of the law from the President of the Family Division of the High Court, Sir James Munby, Mrs Owens has again been denied a divorce from her husband.
Mrs Owens cited many facts and issues to substantiate why the divorce should be granted. Notwithstanding the impact that these have had on her overall happiness, Mrs Owens and her legal team were unable to persuade the Court of Appeal that she ‘cannot reasonably be expected to live’ with Mr Owens.
In most divorce cases based on one party’s ‘unreasonable behaviour’ the allegations will not be defended, and they are often relied upon simply as a means to an end. However, in Mrs Owens’ case the allegations were defended by Mr Owens; as a result Mrs Owens had the difficult task of ‘proving’ how Mr Owens’ behaviour meant that she should not reasonably be expected to live with him.
The President highlighted how the citing of unreasonable behaviour in divorce petitions is often ‘little more than a charade’ but necessary under the current law – which only allows divorce or dissolution without fault when the parties have been separated for at least two years.
Various family law organisations, including Resolution, have urged the government to introduce no-fault divorce in order to avoid the considerable stress and difficulty that can arise in defended proceedings, but whether progress can now be made is yet to be seen.
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