Supreme Court dismisses Mrs Owens' appeal - What could this mean for divorce law reform?

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26 July, 2018

The Supreme Court has re-sparked the debate on the current divorce law in England and Wales by its judgment handed down on 25 July 2018 in the case of Owens v Owens.

Mrs Owens had appealed the decision of the lower court who had refused to grant her decree nisi.  She had petitioned for divorce based on Mr Owens's unreasonable behaviour.  Currently in order to obtain a divorce on this basis it is for the Petitioner to show that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and that the Respondent has behaved so unreasonably that it would be intolerable to continue to live with them.

Divorce cases in England and Wales are rarely contested, especially to this level, and Mrs Owens's Solicitor, Simon Beccle, has said the Supreme Court 'has missed an opportunity to assist Mrs Owens and to move case law on after over 40 years'.

Although this case has raised further "uneasy feelings" the court rightly interpreted the law as it currently stands.  The Supreme Court president, Lady Hale, said that it "is not for us to change the law laid down by parliament - our role is only to interpret and apply the law that parliament has given us'.

It is understood that reforms are being considered in this area with many calling for a "no fault" divorce system being brought into effect in England and Wales.  Many believe that there is no need for assigning blame in what is already a very difficult situation for divorcing couples.  It remains to be seen what reform will be achieved and those of us working in this area continue to wait with bated breath.

At Forbes we have specialist teams who are able to assist with any family law queries. For further information please contact our Family team via email or phone 0800 689 1058. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

Learn more about our Family/Divorce department here

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