Adultery. Desertion. Unreasonable behaviour. These are all grounds to grant a divorce if one party doesn’t agree. But what about unhappiness? Depression? Exhaustion? Head of Family Law at Verisona Law, Andrea Cox, asks if we are now in need of a ‘No Fault Divorce’?
This month saw the Appeal Court refuse the plea from Mrs Tini Owens to be freed from her 39 year marriage to her husband, Mr Hugh Owens. Despite citing intolerable conduct, separate bedrooms and her having had an affair outside the marriage, the Judge hearing the case, Sir James Munby, ruled that Mr Owens’ objection to the divorce meant that it could not be granted.
He said, ‘Parliament has declared that it is not a ground for divorce that you find yourself in a wretchedly unhappy marriage’, before adding ‘though some people may say it should be.’
Mrs Owens turned to the Appeal Court after a family court in Oxford barred her from divorce last year. The 66 year old claimed her husband was insensitive, undermined her and left her feeling unappreciated and without trust. Mr Owens, 78, responded by saying her forgave his wife for a ‘misguided fling’ in 2012 and claimed she was ‘more sensitive than most wives’.
It now looks like Mrs Owens will have to wait for five years before she can petition for divorce regardless of her husband’s objections, but the reminder of a law which is deemed by many to be outdated, insensitive and without compassion has caused some in the legal profession to demand a review of the grounds for divorce.
In the case of the Owens, there can be no doubt that this relationship has irretrievably broken down. One can only speculate as to why Mr Owens is refusing to grant the end of his marriage – perhaps his wife is asking for a large share of the £5 million mushroom farm he built up? Maybe he is blocking her wishes out of spite? Maybe he still loves his companion of the past 40 years and can’t bear to let her go?
Whatever the reason, five years is a long time to wait at their stage of life and the broader question is whether simply not wanting to be in a marriage anymore is a good enough reason for its dissolution?
Many people would argue that being locked into a legally binding arrangement and waiting to be free from it for years is a cruel and unnecessary punishment that needs to be modernised. Others believe that such a difficulty helps enforce the sanctity and respect for the institution of marriage.
One thing I can tell you from experience is a contested divorce petition never makes for a happy living situation. Life is short, so we could either review the term of five years before a petition can be submitted, or simply make a ‘No Fault Divorce’ part of our legal landscape.
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We have set out below a full list of the services our Family Department can provide whatever your circumstances. If you do however have a query which does not relate to any matter detailed below, please do contact our Family team who will endeavour to assist you.
Divorce or Civil Partnership Dissolution
Whether you are the Petitioner or the Respondent within proceedings or whether you are simply contemplating the same we can provide guidance throughout the entire process. We can assist with:
- Drafting of documents
- Negotiations with the other party
- Correspondence with third parties such as the Court
- Advice face to face, by telephone, by email.
Pre-Nuptial and Post-Nuptial Agreements
Whether you are planning to marry or indeed have now married and wish to formalise arrangements in the event of separation we can advise and assist with the following:
- Drafting agreements
- Negotiating settlement
- Corresponding with all parties
Whether you are married or living together and in the event you decide to go your separate ways we can assist in formally documenting terms of separation. We can assist in the following ways:
- Drafting Separation Agreements whether in contemplation of divorce or whether to simply record the split of a cohabiting couple
- Negotiations with third parties
- Providing you with advice whether face to face, by telephone or by email.
Arbitration is an alternative to resolving disputes through the Court. At Verisona Law we can assist in a number of ways either by assisting you through the Arbitration or by referring matters to our in house Arbitrator. We offer competitive arbitration rates and a member of our team will be happy to assist with any queries in this regard. Please see our current articles on Arbitration for more details about the process.
If you have chosen not to marry but wish to live together you may wish to formalise the arrangements and details for doing so. We can assist in the following:
- Drafting cohabitation agreements/living together agreements
- Negotiations with all parties
- Advising you in person, by telephone or email as appropriate.
Divorce where Business are involved
We have extensive experience in dealing with breakdown of marriage where one or both parties are owners of businesses or indeed it may be the family business. We have experience in providing you with advice and signposting for business valuations and will ensure that the business as an asset is dealt with appropriately within any proceedings.
Armed Forces / Emergency Services / Civil Servants
Regardless of your employment situation, divorce and separation can be a very difficult time. If you are however a Public Sector worker the consequences of divorce and in particular the impact on pension provision is something you need specialist advice on. Our team at Verisona Law have extensive experience with Public Sector pensions and can ensure that they are dealt with in the appropriate manner. We are further able to advise on:
- Actuarial values of funds
- Pension Sharing/Attachment/Ear Marking Orders
- Assets including pensions acquired pre-marriage
In addition to being able to provide specialised advice in relation to Public Sector pensions our team at Verisona Law has vast knowledge concerning all pension arrangements and can ensure that they are dealt with appropriately within any divorce proceedings. Please seek advice from a member of our team.
We are able to advise on all aspects of Parental Responsibility including:
- Agreements / Orders
- Exercising your Parental Responsibility rights and duties where appropriate
- Arising out of Parental Responsibility we can advise on applications for a Specific Issue Order to the Court if appropriate.
If you have any queries concerning Parental Responsibility and its impact on you or indeed whether you have Parental Responsibility for your children, please seek advice from a member of our team.
Assisting through Mediation
Whilst we do direct a number of matters through Mediation, this does not mean that you cannot have legal advice throughout the process. We can advise and assist you through the Mediation process and arrange thereafter to draw up formally any agreement reached be this by way of a Consent Order in divorce proceedings or simply to record in an open document the agreement you have reached at Mediation concerning the subject of your dispute.
Whether you are married or otherwise, or indeed simply have an interest in a property owned by another we can provide you with advice and assistance including;
- Applications to the Court
- Negotiations with all parties
- Advising and assisting you face to face, by telephone or by email.
This is an alternative way to resolve family disputes without the involvement of the Court. The Collaborative process requires both parties to have a Collaborative Lawyer and endeavours to resolve any disputes by way of four way meetings. We at Verisona Law can assist you through the Collaborative process. If this is an avenue of resolving dispute that you would be interested in, please contact a member of our team.
We at Verisona Law can provide you with advice and guidance concerning any disputes you may have relating to your child. This may be with whom the child lives, with whom the child spends time with, a specific issue concerning a child or steps that you wish to take to prevent something happening (Prohibited Steps Order). We can also advise you in relation to maintenance disputes with a third party guidance with dealing with the Child Maintenance Service. If you have a query with any issue concerning your child please contact a member of our team.
Change of Name
Please contact a member of our team if you are interested in changing your first or surname to discuss the drafting of a Change of Name Deed. We offer a fixed price for a Change of Name and we can provide you with further information upon request.