When many married couples find themselves having fallen out of love and exploring whether they can pursue a divorce, they are told that they will either need to wait a period of time before they can start a divorce, or they need to provide details of their former partner’s adultery or unreasonable behaviour if they want to pursue a divorce straight away.. This effectively means they have to blame the other partner for the breakdown of the marriage if they want to pursue a divorce immediately having separated. This is a hot topic at the moment and I recently attended parliament with my colleague, Jemma O’Neill, and other members of Resolution to speak to MPs about the benefits of no-fault divorce.
Having to blame a partner for the breakdown of a relationship, in order to be able to move on with your life as soon as you have separated, is completely at odds with the emphasis family law places on trying to focus on amicable ways to resolve disputes. Attempting to resolve disputes amicably and uncontentiously permeates nearly every other aspect of family law, in particular finance and children disputes. Couples and parents are encouraged to try methods of alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation and collaborative law in order to find a solution which works for everybody involved without Court and without animosity. This approach, and fault based divorce are a paradox.
The recent news surrounding Tini Owens appears to have tried to ensure that she pursue a divorce in a way which would minimise animosity and hurt after a long marriage, yet was told by the Court at first instance that she needs to come up with more pronounced examples of unreasonable behaviour to pursue a divorce. It remains to be seen what the outcome of this case will be on appeal, but it certainly appears that it is high time that serious consideration is given to whether current divorce laws are fit for purpose in the 21st century.
Thomas Brownrigg (Solicitor and Mediator )