Under the current law when a couple wish to get divorced they have to prove that their marriage has broken down irretrievably. In order to do that they have to rely upon one of five available reasons those being;
For couples who do not want to wait the 2 years this means they have to set out a degree of “blame” on one part to gain the divorce they both agree they want. Most of us who advise on family law recognise that this need to “blame” the other spouse in divorce proceedings does not help to reduce the conflict and confrontation between them.
Family lawyers continue to press for reform of the divorce laws, with a renewed campaign this month, so that such need to “blame” the other spouse can be avoided. Baroness Hale, the UK’s most senior judge sitting as President of the Supreme Court, herself supports the need for reform saying the current law is “confusing” and “unjust”.
The campaign comes in the same week that the Supreme Court is considering the highly publicised case of Mr and Mrs Owens who, after many years of marriage, are in dispute before the court as to whether Mrs Owens can be granted a divorce. It is very unusual for one spouse to “defend” a divorce but Mr Owens has been doing so since 2015 when Mrs Owens filed a divorce petition relying upon his unreasonable behaviour.
It is not just that parties to a marriage should be able to bring their marriage to an end with dignity and without blame but also that they should be able to do so without having to wait 2 years. Many couples do not want to wait the 2 year period for financial reasons. For instance it is not possible to obtain a court order to share a pension without a divorce. Similarly a couple cannot dismiss their respective financial claims against the other without a divorce.
It is to be hoped that the case of Mr and Mrs Owens (where judgement will be expected later in the year), the pressure of the campaign by family lawyers together with the support of judiciary such as Baroness Hale will result in no fault divorce, and a kinder path to divorce, in the not so distant future.
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