Possible root and branch review of divorce laws
The unfortunate divorce case of Tini Owens and Hugh Owens highlighted the somewhat antiquated nature of our divorce laws. Mrs Owens was very unhappy in her marriage and, after 37 years, wished to call time on it. In the absence both of having been separated long enough and Mr Owens agreeing to the divorce, she had no choice but to file a petition based upon Mr Owens’ unreasonable behaviour. Mr Owens took offence at the trivial nature of the allegations and took the somewhat unusual step of defending the case. The rest is very well-rehearsed history.
Our existing law stems from 1973, nearly half a decade ago. In the 1970s there was still a stigma to divorce. The government of the time did not wish to make it easy, whilst recognising that there were situations where it was necessary. Hence the narrow grounds for proving that a marriage has irretrievably broken down. The Owens case has brought the issue of a whole scale revision of divorce laws to the fore and it may only be a matter of time before there is a root and branch review resulting in a very different legal landscape.
Nicola Furmston is a partner and head of the family department at Barker Gotelee Suffolk Solicitors.