Will we get no-fault divorce?
The recent sad case of Mrs Tini Owens has once again brought our archaic divorce laws under the spotlight.
In a case that went right up to the Supreme Court Mrs Owens was refused a divorce on the grounds of Mr Owens’ alleged unreasonable behaviour, even though the court recognised that the marriage had broken down. Despite the fact that the parties had not lived together for three years, the court decided that the allegations of Mr Owens’ unreasonable behaviour laid out in the divorce petition were not of sufficient gravity to entitle Mrs Owens to a divorce. The consequence is that she will now have to wait until 2020 by which time they will have been living apart for five years.
Although of little comfort to Mrs Owens, the silver lining of this cloud is that the criticism that both the court and family practitioners have sounded of the current divorce laws have now induced the Justice Secretary, David Gauke, to pursue a consultation on reforming the current half century old divorce legislation. The outcome may be a no-fault divorce process, subject to certain conditions and safeguards, which will be welcomed by the courts and family practitioners alike.
But don’t hold your breath. Similar changes were allowed for more than 20 years ago in the Family Law Act 1996 but were not then commenced by the Labour government that took office in 1997.