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If you missed what we’ve been sharing this month, here’s a round up of our blogs and some of the news posts on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

From our blog:

 

No more child marriages: minimum age raised to 18 in England and Wales

 

Parliament have just raised the minimum age for marriage from 16 to 18 in England and Wales, and made it an offence to "facilitate" an underage marriage. Rita explores the issues this new Act addresses, and what other significant legal changes happen when we turn 18. 

 

 

Mediation: ways to avoid the stress and lengthy wait for a court hearing

 

Want to try a less stressful way to reach an agreement than going to court? We discuss court delays, private mediation and the Family Mediation Voucher Scheme in our latest article. We also examine how mediation can help you reach agreement with less stress, shorter time scales, and potentially improve outcomes.

 

 

 

Lights, camera, action and social media frenzy: the Depp Heard defamation trial

 

In our new article, Managing Director Rita Gupta looks at the outcome of the Depp Heard defamation trial in the USA. She assesses the potential impact on the perception and stereotyping of domestic abuse victims here in the UK. 

As Rita says: “Abuse does not discriminate according to gender, age and even celebrity profile.”

 

 

Still out there: Holiday child arrangements and COVID-19

 

If you're planning a holiday abroad this year with your children, as a divorced or separated parent with shared parental responsibility, you will require your ex-partner's permission. 

If your plans change due to covid-19 or similar, then you'll need to revise any child arrangement agreement, which gives their permission. 

Here's how a formal letter from a family lawyer can make the whole process of agreeing who gets the kids when during the holidays a whole lot easier.  

 

 

 

 

 

From our social media:

How often do divorced couples marry each other again?

Second time lucky? Interesting article

 

Skylar Grey sold song catalogue to pay for divorce

One way to finance a divorce.

 

Tips to co-parent successfully during and after divorce

10 tips to take co-parenting to the next level.

 

Government announces extra £5.38m investment for family mediation scheme

The latest cash injection will provide around 10,200 additional vouchers for mediation services in addition to the 8,400 issued so far.

 

“Last judgment” made on anonymity of wealthy divorcing couples

The anonymity of wealthy divorcing couples. Judge, Mr Justice Mostyn said:

“The public has the right to know who they are and what they are fighting about. The judgment should therefore name names.”

 

High Court judgment paves way for posthumous surrogacy

A judgment in the family division of the High Court has paved the way for a widower to use the last remaining embryo created with his late wife to have a child with a surrogate mother.

 

Longest-serving High Court judge hailed at retirement ceremony

After 27 years on the bench, the longest-serving High Court judge Mr Justice Holman, of the Family Court division is retiring.

 

Children's passport warning to divorced and separated parents

Families are being told to take action now or risk losing their summer holidays

 

Who’ll get the Warhols?

The high-society divorces behind New York’s mega-expensive art sales

 

Women in the law exhibition launched in London

Exhibition of trailblazing women in the law launched at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

 

How the courts tackle devious disposing of assets in divorce

This can be a simple act of spite or, in many cases, a disposal of the assets with a plan afoot for the ‘gifts’ to be returned to the giver after the ink is dry on the court order.

 

Couples, beware! The Split and other TV shows not to watch with your partner

Worth a read - just to be safe? It covers Sky, Netflix and iPlayer shows.

 

Rising use of cryptocurrency risks unfair divorce settlements

The anonymity and security associated with cryptocurrency means it is more easily hidden than traditional investments, whilst its inherent volatility can jeopardise financial agreements between splitting couples.

 

New Family Court guidance issued following landmark case involving Thanet mum

Sir Andrew McFarlane has now issued the new guidance which specifically references the Thanet mum’s case and others heard at the review.

The guidance is for judges and magistrates and outlines how procedure and issues within the court should be dealt with, including how to examine allegations of coercive and controlling behaviour.

 

Why hiding assets during divorce could cost you more than just money

If you do try and hide assets "you risk ‘doing a Boris Becker’ and landing yourself in serious trouble if you do.

 

Non-fatal strangulation offenders to face up to five years in prison as part of Domestic Abuse Act

Positive moves for victims.

 

Brad Pitt says Angelina Jolie 'sought to inflict harm' with vineyard sale

Another high profile law suit between exes.

 

Domestic Abuse Act 2021 introduces new non-fatal strangulation offence

This came into force on 7th June.

The offence will apply to any person who intentionally strangles or suffocates another person, affecting their victim’s ability to breathe in an attempt to control or intimidate them, including in cases of domestic abuse.

 

Aristocrat’s estranged wife wins latest round of seven-year court fight

The three appeal judges have decided that Mr Justice Mostyn had been wrong to dismiss an application Mrs Villiers made for maintenance.

 

Untangling the concept of parental alienation

Children who suffer alienation in their childhood can sometimes find it very difficult to make lasting relationships when they are older. In extreme cases of parental alienation, the emotional impact on the child by one parent has been seen as so severe that the court has been known to order a complete transfer of residence for the child from one parent to the other.

If you missed what we’ve been sharing this month, here’s a round up of our blogs and some of the news posts on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

From our blog:

Radio, TV and podcasts: discussing no fault divorce live with the nation

 

Live to the nation: discover how LGFL Director Rita Gupta reached out to 10m+ listeners and viewers on national TV and radio coverage discussing no fault divorce.

 

 

A rollercoaster of feelings: how a divorce progresses emotionally

 

Separation is not just about legal paperwork and financial settlements. The emotional impact it will have on you, your family, and your life both during and after your separation can create a rollercoaster of emotions. In the first of two articles, Rita explores five key emotional points that can affect the progress and speed of any divorce.

 

 

 

More than one rollercoaster; how the emotions of divorce influence your friends, work and future

 

In the second of two articles, Rita explores how the emotions raised by your separation and/or no-fault divorce might impact on your extended family, friends, and work colleagues.

 

 

 

 

 

From our social media:

 

Empathy and sensitivity: a new approach for no-fault divorce

Family lawyers strike a delicate balance between listening with empathy & being sympathetic, but not to be perceived as counsellors. We may need to tailor our approach to ensure no-fault makes positive changes for both clients and practitioners.

 

Divorce filings boom as ‘no-fault’ laws come into force

The introduction of new “no-fault” divorce laws has led to a surge in the number of couples filing for divorces, new government figures show.

 

Pension sharing orders increase as pensions become more central in divorces

Pensions are now central to divorce settlements and it’s important to understand what your financial future will look like - post settlement, and therefore what is negotiable, or not, to come to an agreement.

 

It’s all in the timing: Why timing separation right can save divorcing couples thousands

Timing is everything. Especially when considering finances in a formal separation. As this article explains.

 

As The Split returns actor Annabel Scholey tells us why we love a messy divorce

An interesting interview with one of 'The Split' actors.

 

Johnny Depp’s $50m defamation lawsuit against Amber Heard begins

They are expected to give evidence in person.

 

No-fault divorce law change highlights pre-nup importance

The logic is that if the parties have entered into an agreement of their own free will and they understand the implications, then they should be held to their agreement.

 

Law Society pushes for law to be part of school curriculum

It's never too early to start to learn about 'The Law'.

The president of the Law Society is pushing for law to be part of the school curriculum so that children “know their rights”.

 

Olivia Wilde is served custody papers on stage

There are better places to be served legal proceedings!

 

Couple finally declared legal parents of surrogate son born in 1998

Such a long wait to be legally declared parents of a surrogate child.

 

Home Secretary launches new Tackling Domestic Abuse Plan

The new plan aligns closely to the recent Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy and sets a clear ambition of prioritising the prevention of these awful crimes, supporting victims and pursuing perpetrators.

 

Flurry’ of thousands of divorces in a week as no-fault separation becomes law

This is more likely to be couples waiting to issue proceedings without fault.

 

Industry Voice: The rise of the Silver Splitters

Couples in their sixties and seventies are getting divorced in greater numbers; but what’s behind the rise of the Silver Splitters?

 

COVID-19: Children aged five to 11 in England can now get vaccinated against coronavirus

This may divide some parents.

 

Drop in divorce petitions as 'no-fault' era edges closer

Number of people seeking divorce went down towards end of last year, according to latest family court statistics.

At LGFL, we don’t often advocate a speedy approach to divorce. However, for couples who are considering separating, now may seem the right time to act, as the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 was passed almost a  year ago.

However, the Act won’t actually be implemented until April 2022, which is a long time to wait.

 

Implementation date confirmed in April 2022

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 will come into force on 6th April 2022, according to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) Chris Philp. This is a fixed date as a matter of Parliamentary record rather than the indicative timetable previously given by the government.

Considering that the Act was given Royal Assent almost a year ago, this is a significant delay. Many couples who were waiting for a no-fault divorce won’t be able to wait any longer. Whilst as divorce lawyers we find the delay very disappointing, it does at least give clarity, as no-fault divorce campaigner Nigel Shepherd, the former Chair of Resolution said: “We do now have certainty over the introduction of this important reform, and will be able to advise clients accordingly.”

 

A smooth transition

The date wasn’t officially announced but was given in a reply to a written question by MP Jane Stevenson to the Secretary of State for Justice. In his reply, Chris Philp MP stated that the Ministry of Justice needed to “devise some key new procedures” including:

  • Significant changes to Family Procedure Rules
  • Amendments to family court forms
  • Changes to the online digital divorce service
  • Update the information on gov.uk

According to Philp’s reply, the overall aim is for a “smooth transition” from the existing system to a digital system that will:

“Improve the information and signposting for couples when they navigate the legal process of divorce, dissolution or separation … While this delay is unfortunate it is essential that we take the time to get this right.”

Until the Act is implemented, as Resolution lawyers LGFL can draft a petition for you that is not antagonistic and is acceptable to both parties. Call us to arrange your initial reduced fee 1 hour appointment to discuss your situation and our empathetic and pragmatic approach to divorce.

A major achievement

The Act is a major achievement offering couples a ‘no fault’ divorce. Under the new Act, couples can simply state that: “The marriage has broken down irretrievably” rather than allocate blame or wait for years. Currently there are five grounds for divorce, three of which require the allocation of blame.

As Margaret Heathcote, chair of family law group Resolution says, this enables married couples to separate ‘As constructively and amicably as possible, minimising the impact on any children they may have’.

 

Too long to wait?

No-fault divorce is a very welcome change to our outdated divorce laws, but it comes at a cost – it takes longer. The ‘blame game’ system is never pleasant, and the choice to wait and not allocate blame should be weighed up against the new, extended timescales.

So, if you have definitely decided you want to divorce, call us. We can start the divorce process while the timescales stand, helping you both move forward with your lives.

 

All change - and quickly

The new legislation will extend the minimum time from divorce petition to decree nisi (now known as the conditional divorce order) to 20 weeks. It is currently about 12 weeks.

There’s also an additional 6 weeks to add between decree nisi (conditional divorce order) and decree absolute (divorce order).

It’s important to note that the new 20 weeks period starts when you file for divorce NOT, as in some other countries, when you first consider divorce. Also, the clock starts ticking when the application is made, not when the respondent receives it. The government press release on the new Act says that it:

"Introduces a new minimum period of 20 weeks from the start of proceedings to confirmation to the court that a conditional order of divorce may be made, allowing greater opportunity for couples to agree practical arrangements for the future where reconciliation is not possible and divorce is inevitable."

The Committee of MPs who scrutinised the Bill on Weds 17 June suggested a 'further' extension to the timescales, extending the 20 week period to a considerably longer 46 weeks. Luckily, this amendment was withdrawn and the Bill was passed with just a single amendment the next day. The Bill was then passed, and given Royal Assent on 26 June 2020.

No-fault divorce now starts in April 2022

If you feel that is too long to wait, call us. We offer an initial reduced fee 1-hour consultation, so you have time to really talk through your situation and your options.

woman waiting for divorce bill

No-fault divorce is getting closer, as the long-awaited Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill 2019-20 is finally progressing through parliament. The bill may not be a top priority for government at present, but with the divorce rate predicted to rise as already fragile marriages are likely to feel the strain of lockdown, it may soon become one.

 

One single ground for divorce

At present, there are only five grounds for divorce, three of which require the allocation of blame to one party.

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • Living apart for more than two years and with both agreeing to the divorce
  • Living apart for at least five years, even if your spouse does not agree

Irretrievable breakdown = no fault

The new Bill replaces all the existing five seasons with a simple statement that “The marriage has broken down irretrievably.”

As Justice Secretary & Lord Chancellor Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP said:

“By sparing individuals the need to play the blame game, we are stripping out the needless antagonism this creates so families can better move on with their lives.”

 

Is it worth waiting for no-fault divorce?

In a word, no. We really don’t know what’s going to happen to bills in parliament at present, and progress will inevitably be delayed by the need to work on more pressing legislation. There is even the chance that the Bill may not even be passed at all.

What’s more, there is every reason to get divorce proceedings started now, because of a sting in the tail in the new Bill….

 

No quickie divorce on the table

For those expecting this Bill to include the option for a ‘quickie’ divorce, it doesn’t. In fact, quite the opposite, as the Bill would lengthen the divorce timescale rather than shorten it.

Currently, 40% of divorcing couples are granted a degree nisi within 12 weeks. However, under the new Bill, you must wait for a minimum period of 20 weeks from the initial petition before a judge can grant your degree nisi. That’s a much longer wait than at present, and could really slow down your divorce even if it’s really straightforward.

Need a divorce now? Call us to request a free 30-minute consultation to discuss your situation. (T&Cs apply.)

 

New words, old meanings

As divorce lawyers, we’re constantly seeing legal terminology changing with new legislation. It’s designed to help make the divorce process more understandable, but sometimes we do wonder if it’s worth it! The revisions in this Bill include:

  • “decree nisi” becomes a “conditional divorce order”.
  • “judicial separation” becomes “a judicial separation order”
  • “divorce” become “a divorce order”

 

No more Tini Owens scenarios

Tini Owens wanted to divorce her husband of 40 years. He refused, even though they had lived apart since she had moved out. She appealed to the High Court in 2018, which rejected her appeal on the grounds that her husband’s behaviour had not been unreasonable. This forced her to wait the full five years until she could finally divorce her husband without his consent in 2020.

She wasn’t alone; other spouses had refused to divorce even after five years of separation on the grounds that they would suffer grave hardship. The Bill removes the ability for one spouse to contest the divorce in court. So, no more waiting game.

 

Where is the Bill now?

The bill has currently just had a first reading in the House of Commons, having been debated and amended by the House of Lords. There’s no date set yet for a second reading, but it is making progress with just four stages to go. You can follow the Bill’s progress at the Parliament site.

 

Expert divorce advice from LGFL

As experienced divorce lawyers, we have long argued that a no-fault divorce process would be fairer and more suitable to today’s society. In particular we would support any changes that reduce the emotion distress of divorce on both parents and children, and retains more amicable relations between divorcing parents.

What’s more, as Resolution family lawyers, we will not write inflammatory petitions unnecessarily as we follow their code of practice. You will always get to approve all petitions, written with the benefit of our professional advice and decades of experience.

If you’re uncertain what approach is best for you and your family, call us to book a consultation to discuss your particular circumstances.

50s woman pointing at self. blame game

Changes to the legislation for the grounds for divorce, the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, have been announced by the Justice Secretary. When passed by parliament, these changes will finally end the need for the ‘blame game' when filing for divorce.

The proposed legislation would only require a statement of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage as the sole grounds for divorce. It will also abolish the ability for one spouse to contest a divorce, as happened in the Tiny Owens case.

New to the legislation is the requirement for a six month minimum timespan from the divorce petition to the granting of the divorce. This is to allow for a period of ‘reflection’ for the couple. Also new is an option for a joint application for divorce.

The two-stage legal process of decree nisi and decree absolute will remain, as will the currently required six-week gap between decree nisi and decree absolute. The law governing the dissolution of a civil partnership would also be changed.

According to Justice secretary David Gauke, the new legislation would be introduced "as soon as Parliamentary time allows”. Mr Gauke said he:

“Firmly believes now is the right time to end this unnecessary blame game for good … Hostility and conflict between parents leave their mark on children and can damage their life chances. While we will always uphold the institution of marriage, it cannot be right that our outdated law creates or increases conflict between divorcing couples.”

If you’d like to discuss your options for divorce, do contact us for a free 30-minute consultation either in our discreet countryside offices just outside Reading, or our new exclusive-use office at Spaces, in Reading city centre.

child with split photo of parents, divorce

“Good” and “divorce” are not necessarily common bedfellows. Messy and acrimonious divorces take their toll on not just the couple involved but their immediate family too, and especially their children.

For their annual awareness raising campaign, the family law charity Resolution is turning the spotlight on “how separating or divorcing parents can limit the impact of conflict on their children.” Resolution is an organisation of family justice professionals who believe in a constructive, non-confrontational approach to family law matters.

 

Good Divorce Week 2018

From 26-30 November, they will be explaining and promoting the value of ‘no fault’ or ‘no blame’ divorce. Under the current legislation, one party needs to be cited as ‘at fault’ in a divorce. Resolution and many other groups are pressing for reform in divorce law that would remove the need for allocating blame.

No fault is our choice too

Here at LGFL Ltd, we fully support a change to a ’no fault’ divorce system, not least because it will ease the tension at the time of divorce. It would also avoid children growing up believing that one parent was at fault compared with the other. In our own work, we have developed a sympathetic approach to the current divorce legislation that works to minimises this kind of ‘blame game’ approach, but a change in the legislation is long overdue.

 

Come and talk to us in Reading or Basingstoke

If your marriage or civil partnership is breaking down, and you wish to explore options for separating, call us. We offer a free 30-minute consultation to discuss your situation, where you can ask questions and meet one of our Directors.

You can visit us at our discreet countryside offices in Swallowfield near reading, or join us in a central Reading or Basingstoke location that may be more convenient for your work, home or commute. Call us, email us or fill in our online application form.

Informing your MP

Resolution will be holding a Parliamentary briefing session for MPs on Friday 28 November, to inform them of the current situation and how separating parents can work to put the best interests of their children first. As an example, Resolution point to a national survey, in which:

  • “62% of petitioners and 78% of respondents said that in their experience using fault had made the process more bitter
  • 21% of fault-respondents said fault had made it harder to sort out arrangements for children
  • 31% of fault-respondents thought fault made sorting out finances harder”

If you believe a no fault system is best for families, who not email your MP and suggest they attend the Parliamentary briefing.

 

Divorce without blame

“In 2012, there were over 72,000 divorces where adultery or unreasonable behaviour were cited. People should not have to go through this blame charade to bring their relationship to a dignified conclusion and move on with their lives. A civilised society deserves a civilised divorce process.” (Resolution)

The Family Law Act 1996 actually provided for divorce without blame, but was never enacted. The Family Mediation Taskforce also recommended that divorce without blame be introduced, in line with countries including the United States, Australia and Spain. This change is both wanted and needed in England and Wales.

 

Brighton and the blame game

In 1923, wives first gained access to divorce on the same grounds as their husbands, namely adultery. However, this also meant that couples wishing to divorce could only do so by proving adultery.

The legal reformist A P Herbert wrote a satirical novel “Holy Deadlock” in which a fictitious solicitor advises his client on how to hire a “well trained expert” to help stage a scene of adultery.

“As a rule, the gentleman takes the lady to a hotel - Brighton or some such place – enters her in the book as his wife – shares a room with her, and sends the bill to his wife. The wife’s agents cause inquiries to be made, and eventually they find the chambermaid who brought the guilty couple their morning tea. A single night used to be sufficient, but the President has been tightening things up, and we generally advise a good long week-end to-day.”

 

Why LGFL Ltd supports no fault divorce

A no fault divorce would remove the need for blame, and recognise that in many cases, there is no blame. The relationship simply breaks down, and two people who once wanted to be together no longer wish to be. No fault divorce would allow them to separate with dignity, and minimise the emotional impact on their children. It doesn’t make divorce easier, but it does make it, as Resolution say, more civilised.

Call us to make an appointment to discuss your situation, and your best way forward.

End of the road sign

A new consultation announced by Justice Secretary David Gauke into no-fault divorce is very welcome news for LGFL Ltd Director Rita Gupta.

It seems so strange to many divorcing couples who walk into our offices that in an age of democracy and equality in marriage, there is still a need for grounds for divorce based in laying the blame on one spouse. It doesn’t sit with the principles of Resolution we ascribe to. The Justice Secretary’s consultation will, according to Family Law Week, “Call for the existing fault-based system of establishing marriage breakdown to be abolished.” It can’t come soon enough in my view.

 

The five facts for divorce

Under the current legislation in England and Wales, The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, grounds for a divorce must be based on one of five key facts:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion (for a period of at least two years)
  • Separation for a period of at least two years, in the case of an agreed divorce
  • Separation, for a period of at least five years, in the case of an contested divorce

In Scotland, couples without children of the marriage under 16 can divorce more quickly if they can prove that their marriage has broken down through:

  • One year's separation with consent of both partners
  • Two years separation without consent

 

Why reform is required

The need to allocate blame in divorce can trigger major emotion turmoil and upset for both parents and children during the divorce process, as the BBC’s legal correspondent Clive Coleman discussed:

“Many believe that when divorcing couples are being torn apart emotionally and financially, and trying to make living arrangements for their children, assigning blame to one party can only exacerbate an already stressful process…. There will be some who fear such a (no-fault) system will undermine marriage, but many believe it could remove a layer of stress and anxiety from one of life's most traumatic experiences.”

 

The Tini Owens case

While campaigners have long argued that these grounds for divorce are outdated and in need of reform, the recent case of Tini Owens has brought the issue into sharp focus. Mrs Owens wanted a divorce, Mr Owens did not. According to the law, Mrs Owens had to be separated from her husband for at least five years before she could be granted a non-consensual divorce. The Supreme Court were obliged to uphold that legal requirement, albeit reluctantly for some of the judges, locking Mrs Owens into her ‘loveless’ marriage until February 2020.

 

Grounds for change

The new consultation will examine the proposals for a new single ground for divorce of ‘irretrievable breakdown’. It is said that the Ministry of Justice also want to end the chance for a spouse to contest a divorce, and to set a fixed minimum time frame for divorce of six months. The same would apply to the dissolving of civil partnerships.

In an interview for The Times, Justice Secretary Gauke said:

“(I am) increasingly persuaded … that what we have at the moment creates more antagonism than we really need. I don’t think the best way of helping the institution of marriage is by putting bureaucratic hurdles in the way of a divorce.”

 

Welcoming the consultation

Former chairman of Resolution and long-time campaigner for divorce reform, Nigel Shepherd, welcomed the news:

“The government appears to have heeded our calls to make our divorce system fit for the modern age, and we will continue to push for this much-needed, overdue reform to be implemented as soon as possible.”

It’s been a long campaign too. The Law Commission first recommended a system of no-fault divorce back in 1990. It was to be introduced in a 1996 Act of Parliament, but the requirement for spouses to attend so-called information meetings was feared to be unworkable.

 

Consultation to legislation

It’s important to stress that this is a consultation at this stage, but it’s a strong indication of the intent for change within the government and Ministry of Justice. As Christina Blacklaws, president of the Law Society said to The Guardian newspaper:

“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.”

 

Divorce with less stress

At LGFL Ltd, we take a practical and pragmatic approach to divorce. Our principal aim is to achieve the best divorce process and financial settlement for our clients, whilst always putting the interests of their children first and foremost. Divorce is stressful enough without the legal paperwork and jargon adding to it. So we keep our clients informed, explaining each stage of the process and keeping the process moving forward.

If your marriage is irrecoverably broken down and you wish to discuss the option of divorce, call us. We offer a no-obligation 30-minute consultation to qualified clients at our discreet countryside offices, or in central Reading, Berkshire.

 

Butterfly behind window

Director Rita Gupta gives her insight into this long-running battle for a woman to divorce her husband.

Tini Owens has been married to her husband Hugh for 40 years. She describes it as a ‘loveless’ marriage, and wants a divorce. The children have grown up and long since left home, and the couple slept apart for years until Mrs Owens moved out in 2015. She says that their relationship has broken down and she wants to move on.

So what’s the problem?

Mr Owens (aged 80) will not agree to the divorce. Simple as that. As a result, Mrs Owens (aged 68) has been through three major court appeals. Finally this month, the Supreme Court ruled that she must stay married to her husband.

It’s not about the money

Unlike so many divorce cases, this one does not centre around money. In most divorce cases, both parties agree on the need for a divorce, but it’s usually the divorce settlement that causes the disputes. Given that Mr Owens is a millionaire mushroom farmer and the couple jointly own the business, and four “nice” properties in Worcestershire, you’d expect this to be the sticking point.

However, this case centres on existing legislation that requires a spouse to establish that a marriage has irretrievably broken down. It also requires that one spouse be at fault, or establishes a minimum period of separation. In law, ‘fault’ can include abusive or coercive behaviour, adultery, or other forms of bad behaviour.

Mr Owens does not agree that this has happened, insisting that Mrs Owens is simply “bored” and that that they still have a “few years” left in their marriage. His legal team’s statement said that:

“He did not accept that his behaviour during the marriage was such as to justify the ending of the marriage by divorce. At the outset he hoped that there could be a reconciliation with his wife.”

The Supreme Court says no

In July 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that, in law, Mrs Owens has no grounds for divorce. So, reluctantly as it turns out, they have to rule that she must remain married to Mr Owens. The judges clearly were not happy with this outcome, but needed to stick to the letter of the law. The UK’s most senior lady judge, Lady Hale, said:

“I have found this case very troubling. It is not for us to change the law laid down by Parliament - our role is only to interpret and apply the law.”

 

The case for no-fault divorce

At LGFL Ltd, we have long advocated a simple solution to this and so many other unnecessarily complex divorce cases - no fault divorce. Neither spouse would have to find or prove fault in order to be granted a divorce. It does seem bizarre that Mr Owens can restrict his wife’s life so such as degree by a simple refusal, yet this is not seen as coercive or controlling behavior. i.e. putting him at ‘fault’.

No-fault divorce legislation would allow divorce to be granted without the stress, hurt and anguish that having to prove ‘fault’ entails, or waiting a minimum period when parties simply want to move on. As Nigel Shepherd, former chair of Resolution said:

“Our current laws can often create unnecessary conflict in divorce – forcing couples to blame each other when there is no real need, other than a legal requirement, to do so.”

Instead, Mrs Owens could be finally free from her husband and live her life, rather than remaining shackled to his life.

 

Divorce on demand

No-fault divorce legislation would not, in our view, lead to the ‘divorce on demand’ scenario that some of the tabloids seem to think will bring society to its knees. Instead, no-fault divorce would offer a fair, civilised and considerate solution to an antiquated divorce system that is overdue for reform for our changing 21st century society.

LGFL Director Rita Gupta firmly believes that ‘sometimes things just don’t work out’ or people ‘grow apart’. In these cases, often when the parties have good relations, the law is unhelpful. Grounds such as ‘irreconcilable differences’ do not apply in England as they do in Australia or America, and this is something we should be moving towards.

In the meantime, Mrs Owens will remain married to Mr Owens until 2020. At that point, the couple will have been ‘officially’ separated for five years, and her petition for divorce can be granted without Mr Owens’ permission.

It seems extremely unfortunate that one woman’s deep unhappiness and her attempts to extract herself from that scenario ultimately are restricted by outdated legislation and a high profile media case.

If you are in an unhappy marriage, and are unsure as to whether you have sufficient ground to divorce please contact us. We offer a free 30 minute consultation to discuss your situation, either in central Reading, at our offices, or via Skype.

In a bid to reduce the levels of acrimony involved in a divorce, Baroness Hale of Richmond has called for the removal of the requirement for the allocation of blame.

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