A recent briefing paper produced by the House of Commons
library considered the benefits and potential drawbacks of no-fault
divorce, including recent attempts to introduce it to the
There are many issues associated with starting a divorce by
blaming another party for the breakdown of the marriage. Above all,
it risks raising the temperature and does not make for a
constructive start to resolving issues arising from divorce,
including the difficult and sensitive issues surrounding finance
and children matters. Requiring fault in a divorce not only drives
up emotions, but also legal fees. A responsible solicitor can work
to lower tensions and seek to agree particulars with your
The current law is very clear. In order to prove that a marriage
has broken down irretrievably, the parties to a marriage or civil
partnership must reference one of five facts: adultery,
unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years' separation with
consent, or five years' separation. This means that in order to
divorce without blame, the parties must wait two years. As many
divorcing couples do not have two years to spare, a great number of
petitions have to proceed on the basis of unreasonable behaviour
therefore implying 'fault'.
The fact that this subject has caught the attention of the
Commons library suggests that no-fault divorce may soon return to
the parliamentary agenda. Resolution, the Solicitors' Family
Law Association, have campaigned hard for a change in the law for
years and will continue to push for this change to English and
Welsh Family Law. On this issue, Jolene Hutchison will be taking
part in a Lobby Day organised by Resolution to address parliament
on this very issue and other family law matters at the end of
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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While a request for a divorce may come as a shock, most people come to the realisation that if their spouse considers that the marriage is over then, perhaps after attending marriage counselling, there is no point fighting the inevitable.
There is no question that Mr and Mrs Owens are both unhappy with their current position, and the Court of Appeal judges were equally unhappy with the current legal position. The question is what should be done.
The highly unusual decision in the recent case of Owens v Owens, has served as a reminder of the Respondent's right to defend a Petition for divorce, and the Court's power to reject a Petition based on unreasonable behaviour...
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