Truro lawyer backs no fault divorce

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Stephens Scown LLP has supported calls for the introduction of no fault divorce, following the Supreme Court’s ruling in a historic divorce case.

This case involves a couple who have been married for 39 years. Tini Owens, who is 68, sought a divorce from her 80-year old husband on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour. She has described her experience as being trapped in a “loveless and desperately unhappy” marriage”.

At present, it is not possible for a couple to divorce without blame being apportioned unless they have separated for at least two years. They are required to either record details of their partner’s adultery or their unreasonable behaviour.

Unusually Mr Owens contested the divorce and the decision of the Family Court, then the Court of Appeal’s decision was that Mrs Owens had not proved his unreasonable behaviour, which meant that the couple could not divorce for a further five years.

Today (July 25) the Supreme Court refused Mrs Owen’s appeal.

As Mark Chanter, senior consultant in Stephens Scown’s family law team in Truro, commented: “This case meant a great deal to so many people facing divorce and having to allege fault against their spouse. Whilst it is clear that the Supreme Court were not comfortable with that approach, they were ultimately hamstrung by the legislation and had to abide with it.”

Resolution, the association for family lawyers is calling for the introduction of no fault divorce – a move which Stephens Scown supports.

Chanter explained: “The requirement for divorcing couples to blame their spouse in a written court document rubs against the grain for many people who don’t want to antagonise an already difficult situation.

“Marriages often break down due to no fault of neither party. Couples can drift apart, develop different priorities or want to go their separate ways for any variety of reasons for which they should not necessarily be blamed. Much of this is human nature rather than something that ought to warrant the court’s disapproval.

“Ultimately, it has to be wrong to tell couples that if you want to move on with your lives one of you has to blame the other for your separation.”

Figures released by Resolution show wide-spread dissatisfaction with the current law among family lawyers. 90% of family law professionals agree that the current law makes it harder for them to reduce conflict and confrontation. 80% believe that the introduction of no-fault divorce would make it more likely for separated couples to reach an agreement out of court. And 67% of Resolution members say that the current law makes it harder for separated parents to reach an amicable agreement over arrangements for children.