June 30th, 2017
There was an article on the BBC news site last month about a woman stuck in her marriage. Mr and Mrs Owens have been married for some 39 years. Mrs Owens’ case was that the marriage had irretrievably broken down, which is the only ground for divorce.
To establish the ground for divorce, there are five facts under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 that can be relied on. These are as follows:-
2. Unreasonable Behaviour
3. Two years separation with the consent of the other spouse
4. Five years separation
Mrs Owens’ divorce petition relied on her husband’s unreasonable behaviour as none of the other facts applied. Mr Owens disputed that the marriage had in fact broken down and he disputed all 27 allegations made against him by his wife.
The court heard this case and considered all the allegations against Mr Owens. The Judge concluded that her allegations were “of the kind to be expected in marriage” and did not conclude that the ground for divorce had been established. Mrs Owens’ allegations included that Mr Owens was “insensitive” in his “manner and tone” and said she was “constantly mistrusted” and felt unloved.
Mrs Owens is therefore left with two options; either appeal this finding (which she intends to do) or wait until she has been separated from her husband for 5 years.
When I am advising someone in relation to an unreasonable behaviour divorce petition, my advice has always been to keep allegations as mild as would be accepted by the court to avoid inflaming matters between the two parties. It is important to keep matters as amicable as possible as this will allow for more reasonable negotiations/discussions regarding other matters, such as finances or childcare. Following this case, my concern is that, in the event that the divorce is defended, I may end up with a client, like Mrs Owens, who is stuck in their marriage. Does this mean that petitions should now be more strongly worded? Does this case highlight that there is a need for a change in law to include a “no fault” fact that can be relied on? Or do you think such a change would lower the value of marriage?
Having obtained her A Levels from the Royal Latin School in Buckingham, Rebecca Stewart went on to obtain a Legal Secretary Diploma through Pitmans Training and immediately following qualification secured a role at Hawkins Family Law. Following that she discovered her true ambition lay in becoming a Legal Executive specialising in Family Law.In 2012 Rebecca enrolled at Cilex Law School and by 2015 had completed all her level 3 exams, achieving distinctions in 3 of these modules, and is now an Associate Member of Cilex. Rebecca is now working towards her level 6 qualifications and is now able to act as a trainee Legal Executive under the supervision of the Directors of Hawkins Family Law.
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