Whose Fault is it Anyway?

Jul 01, 2019

To get divorced in England and Wales you need to show to the court that your marriage has broken down. That doesn't actually mean that you need to invite the judge round to witness the mud slinging.

Unless you have been separated for over two years, you only have the option of adultery or unreasonable behaviour to prove the breakdown, both of which expect the person starting the divorce to say the other is at fault.

Sometimes, a couple have just drifted apart and there is no real blame to be apportioned. For other couples, blaming one person can lead to more conflict and animosity.

Picture this scenario. Mr and Mrs Owens separated in 2015. She started divorce proceedings against Mr Owen on the grounds of his behaviour. They hadn't yet been separated for two years and so that was the only ground available to her.

Surprisingly, the court decided that the behaviour was not unreasonable enough even through Mrs Owen clearly believed that Mr Owen's behaviour made her feel that she could not continue in the marriage.

Mrs Owen was forced to appeal to the Court of Appeal and then later to the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court decides against Mrs Owen she is forced to remain locked in a marriage that is quite clearly over until 2020 when she can petition for divorce on the basis that they have been separated for five years. This is the reality for Mrs Owen who is waiting for the judgement from the highest court. She has spent many years, at great expense, fighting to leave a marriage that is quite clearly over. How can this be good for anyone, let alone the thousands of couples that start divorce proceedings using "fault" as a basis?

At a point of such high emotions, receiving a document that specifies numerous reasons why one person was the cause of the marriage failing, can often jeopardise any chance of a separation based on co-operation and collaboration.

Regardless of the outcome of Owen -v- Owen , it is perhaps time that the law is changed to finally allow "no-fault" divorce. It could save so many separating couples and their children any more misery than is absolutely necessary. It is time for reform.


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