No-fault divorce?

Relationship breakdown

posted: 21st May 2018

You may recall our blog ‘Unhappily Married? This, sadly, is not grounds for divorce’ which went live on our website in March of last year.  Within that blog we discussed the case of Owens v Owens in which the Court of Appeal refused Mrs Owens appeal to divorce her Husband.

By way of very brief recap, Mrs Owens issued her divorce petition based upon her Husband’s unreasonable behaviour citing 27 examples of such behaviour. This was defended by the Husband. At the Court of Appeal, Sir James Munby stated:-

“Parliament has decreed that it is not a ground for divorce that you find yourself in a wretchedly unhappy marriage, though some people may say it should be”.

Mrs Owens was before the Supreme Court on the 17th May 2017 attempting to persuade the Court that she has indeed satisfied the grounds set out in s.1(2)(b) of the Matrimonial Cause Act 1973. The Supreme Court considered the application of this section of the Act. The argument which was put before the Court was whether due to Mr Owens behaviour Mrs Owens can reasonably be expected to live with him. It was therefore being argued that the test to be applied is subjective i.e. what is reasonable for Mrs Owens rather than objective i.e. what is deemed reasonable by a third party.

The Supreme Court President, Lady Hale was one of the Justices who presided over the case and commented that this case is a ‘rare example of the court rejecting a behaviour petition’. So what is considered reasonable and unreasonable behaviour?

The current law provides that unless both parties agree and have been separated for 2 years you cannot divorce without ‘blame’. Indeed you have to wait until you have been separated for five years to petition to the court for divorce without the consent of your former partner.

This again raises the debate as to whether the current law is outdated and indeed whether ‘no-fault’ divorce should be implemented into UK law.

The entire PMC Family Law team are eagerly awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision in this case to discover how the law will develop in this area.

Be sure to look out for our blog following the judgement!

If you are experiencing any family law issues and wish to arrange an initial consultation with our expert team of family law Solicitors, please do not hesitate to contact PMC Family Law on 0151 375 9968 or email today.


By: Lindsey Potter - Paralegal