Earlier this summer, the story of Tini Owens’s unhappy marriage became national news when the 68-year-old was refused a divorce from her husband despite her claims that the relationship was beyond repair
The ruling that her misery did not consitute legal grounds to end her wedlock to husband Hugh prompted renewed calls for the introduction of a ‘no fault’ divorce, which would allow couples to split without having to cite the bad behaviour of one partner as the reason.
Now it appears that those pleas have been heard in Whitehall after plans emerged for a consultation on streamlining the slow and confrontational procedures couples face when separating.
Justice Secretary David Gauke, who has previously acknowledged that the argument for reform is strong, is expected to launch a public debate on proposals to modernise legislation that has not been changed for almost 50 years.
Under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, anyone seeking a divorce must either prove their partner is at fault through adultery, desertion or unreasonable behaviour, or, alternatively, if both sides agree, they can part after two years of separation. In the absence of consent or evidence of fault, applicants must wait until they have been living apart for five years.
Campaign groups leading the calls for reform of the divorce system claim current arrangements are outdated and force couples to blame one another if they wish to speed up their separation – a particular concern when children are involved.
Christina Blacklaws, the president of the Law Society, said: “Making couples attribute fault in order to end their marriage can escalate the differences between them in an already charged situation.
“It’s time to bring this law into the 21st century to reflect the society we live in and we look forward to working with government to ensure the reforms are fit for purpose.”
Helen Stuart, a family law expert at Gotelee, said: “Modernising our divorce laws is a sensible way of helping to avoid the acrimony that sometimes accompanies separation.
“The case of Tini Owens perfectly illustrates the need for change. The Supreme Court had little option but to reject her case, because their job is to interpret legislation and not to change it, however much that might be needed.
“Hopefully, this consultation will lead to much-needed reform, which meets the needs of modern families.”
How can our divorce lawyers help?
At Gotelee, our divorce lawyers carefully advise clients on the strength of their application to ensure they do not waste time and money on cases that don’t meet the the legal criteria.
We can provide guidance on how to get divorced, the myths, timescale and cost, and the implications surrounding children and financial arrangements.
Our family lawyers can see you in Ipswich, Hadleigh, Felixstowe, Woodbridge.
To find out more or to make a fixed fee appointment, call 01473 211121 or email [email protected]