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The Blame Game - A Case for No-Fault Divorce

on Tuesday, 30 May 2017.

If you're a healthcare professional living in England or Wales, you will unfortunately not be able to get a no fault divorce...

Some of you will be aware of the recent case of Tini Owens, a 66 year old woman who has asked the Court of Appeal to overturn a Family Court ruling that she couldn't divorce her husband, despite being desperately unhappy in her 39 year marriage.

Tini told the Court that her husband was insensitive towards her, that he mistrusted her and that she felt unloved. Tini's husband disagreed, denying that this was how he behaved. Despite this, the Family Court considered that Tini's allegations against her husband were of the kind that could be expected in a marriage and her divorce petition and appeal were refused.

A Fault-Based System

In England & Wales, the only ground for divorce is irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. This has to be supported by one of five 'facts':

  • adultery
  • unreasonable behaviour
  • two years separation with consent
  • five years separation without consent
  • desertion

However, 62% of divorce petitions in the UK are based on 'fault', which leaves the remaining 38% of those seeking a divorce left with having to rely on separation based grounds with or without their former partner's consent.

Is the Law Due for an Update?

In 2015, Richard Bacon MP introduced a Ten Minute Bill which proposed creating no fault divorce. The Bill proposed a system whereby each party could make a separate declaration that the marriage had irretrievably broken down without a requirement to satisfy the court of any other fault. Unfortunately however, the Bill did not proceed past its first reading in the House of Commons.

Where does this leave us? The matter is still up for debate. Despite the widespread support for 'no-fault divorce', successive governments have resisted calls to do so.

Whilst we are currently left with a fault based divorce system, our Matrimonial team are members of Resolution, a body which promotes a non-confrontational approach to family problems. We are experienced in facilitating divorces for clients with a view to minimising animosity.


For more information, please contact Samantha Hickman in our Family Law team on 0117 314 5435.

 

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