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Any such thing as an easy divorce?

 July 2018 |  Lisa Churchill

The Supreme Court gave their decision on the controversial case of Mr and Mrs Owens and have ruled that Mrs Owens must remain married.

Mr and Mrs Owens married in 1978 and separated in February 2015, with Mrs Owens leaving the matrimonial home in February 2015. She issued divorce proceedings on the grounds of Mr Owens’ unreasonable behaviour, stating that she could not be expected to live with him.
Mr Owens defended the divorce and the matter was taken all the way to the Supreme Court, after the initial judge stated that the grounds Mrs Owens were not enough to show that the marriage was at an end.

As a result, Mrs Owens now has to wait until 2020 for the 5 years’ separation to have passed. In English Law, there are five grounds for divorce:-

  1. Adultery;
  2. Unreasonable behaviour;
  3. 2 years’ separation with consent;
  4. 5 years’ separation; and
  5. Desertion.

Adultery and unreasonable behaviour are 'fault' grounds, which means one of the spouses has to have done something to warrant the divorce. As the Owens case shows, the allegations of unreasonable behaviour have to be enough to convince the court that the marriage has broken down beyond retrieval.

Recently the calls for divorce to be made without fault have been increasing. Making a couple who have agreed that the marriage is beyond repair wait for at least 2 years can put an exceptional strain on someone emotionally. If a spouse does not agree to a divorce, then 5 years is an exceptionally long time for someone to have their life placed on hold.

The Supreme Court have made it clear that they will not be seen to make any changes in law. It does not appear as though the Government have any immediate plans to change divorce law. Until such time as they do, it is clear that we will remain with the same 'fault' divorce system.

If you are looking to separate or divorce, then to make the process as smooth as possible it is important to instruct a solicitor to guide you through the process.

If you are considering this, please speak to one of our experienced solicitors at Fullers Family Law.

We offer a free telephone consultation (subject to availability) so please call 01234 343 134 or email

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