Unreasonable behaviour - a divorce in crisis?

You may have heard the news today that The Supreme Court has announced this morning that the Appeal in the case of Owens and Owens has been dismissed.

This was the case that involved an appeal by Mrs Owens (aged 68) against a decision of the Court of Appeal. 

The very brief facts of this case is that Mr Owens is aged 80. These parties were married in 1978 and finally in May 2015 Mrs Owens decided to commence divorce proceedings on the basis of Mr Owens unreasonable behaviour. Mr Owens defended the petition saying that the examples given were insufficient to justify a divorce and they did not meet the relevant legal test. The court found in the first instance in his favour and dismissed the petition.  Mrs Owens appealed and the Court of Appeal dismissed her Appeal.  She appealed again.

The Supreme Court have dismissed her appeal in a judgment given this morning. This means that Mrs Owens will need to remain separated from Mr Owens and subsequently present a petition on those grounds.

The issues before the Supreme Court were the need for the petitioner to 'prove' blame rather than focus on the effects of those behaviours on the person petitioning.

Where does this leave us?

Undoubtedly, anyone wishing to present a petition on the basis of their husband or wife's unreasonable behaviour will need to carefully consider the examples that they use, or risk having to use a different ground. Resolution, the organisation for family lawyers and other professionals committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes is recommending that the law is changed so that there is a no fault divorce ground. Many other countries around the world including Australia the USA and Spain allow for divorce without blame.

What would the benefits of a no fault divorce be?

Certainly, blame can bring out feelings of injustice and recrimination. Arguably, divorce without blame will increase the chances of non-court dispute resolution possibly reducing the burden on the family courts.

If you have questions or would like any further information, please contact Zoe Porter on 01392 333686 or

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