Supreme Court could usher in no-fault divorce

The case of a woman who wants to divorce her husband of four decades was heard by the Supreme Court today.

The courts have denied Tini Owens a divorce from her husband Hugh because she has been unable to prove fault on his part.

Two of the Supreme Court judges said the answer was to introduce no-fault divorce, but The Christian Institute’s Director Colin Hart says such a system will “trivialise marriage”.

Contested

In England and Wales, a couple must prove their marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down’.

Divorce claimants must cite adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years’ separation when the divorce is consensual, or five years’ separation otherwise.

Mrs Owens filed for divorce in 2015 when she moved out of their family home, but as her husband contests the divorce, the five-year separation rule applies.

She has therefore cited ‘unreasonable behaviour’, but a family court and the Court of Appeal have found the issues she raised to be “of the kind to be expected in marriage”.

Trivialising

Those lobbying for new divorce laws say the current law forces couples to assign blame to one another, and should allow for ‘no-fault’ divorce instead.

But Mr Hart said that: “Society has an interest in trying to keep marriages together and I think no-fault divorce is pushing that in the wrong direction.

“Children do best when they live with both their married parents, and divorce puts children at the centre of the dispute between the divorcing spouses.”

Mr Hart also said that the current system already makes divorce too easy, with lawyers coaching clients on how to circumvent the system.

Too Easy

He said while some would like to make it easier for couples to divorce, a suitable waiting period is vital.

“Many people who file for divorce change their minds and go on to have long, happy marriages. Making divorce quicker and easier robs them of the opportunity to reconsider and reconcile.

“And if you don’t want to get divorced, but you are being forced against your will to make all sorts of profound, life-changing arrangements, you should be given time to make those arrangements.”

In closing, he added: “There is also the sense of justice. Why shouldn’t a wife who has been faithful to a philandering husband be able to get a divorce on the grounds of adultery?”

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