Kim Fellowes, Partner
I welcome the news that justice secretary David Gauke is committing the government to reforming family law that will see the end of blame culture in divorce.
Following consultation launched last autumn, the Secretary of State has announced he will bring in legislation to introduce “no fault” divorce in the next Parliamentary session, which starts in May . Under current law unless you have been separated for two or five years, divorce has to be on the grounds of adultery, or unreasonable behaviour. This blame culture in divorce has, in my experience, seen separating couples fighting each unnecessarily, with children caught in the middle.
Calls to reform the law surged last year after the case of Owens v Owens. In this widely publicised case the Supreme Court ruled that Tini Owens could not divorce her husband until a period of five years had elapsed. Mrs Owens and her husband, Hugh Owens, had been living separate lives since 2015. She made 27 allegations about how her husband had treated her, but her husband disagreed, and denied the allegations.
Resolution, the organisation of 6,500 family justice professionals in England and Wales, who believe in a constructive, non-confrontational approach to family law matters, has long campaigned on “no fault” divorce. As a member of its national committee I have been actively involved in its campaign, including lobbying MPs to bring about a change in the law.
Speaking in response to the remarks, Nigel Shepherd, former Chair of Resolution said: “From the Secretary of State’s remarks, it is clear that the responses to the consultation have demonstrated overwhelming support for this important reform, and we’re pleased the government are so firmly behind it.
“Our members, and the families they work with, will be delighted that, after years of campaigning, we are now so close to ending the ‘blame game’ that many divorcing couples are currently forced to play.
“There is clearly much detail still to agree, and we’ll be providing Ministers and officials with all the support we can to help this new legislation come forward, and be enacted, as soon as possible.”
A change in the law will come too late for Mrs Owens. However,, I hope that legislation will be introduced quickly enough to spare other couples the emotional pain and stress of blaming one another in order to divorce .
If you have any questions about divorce or separation you can contact Kim direct on 0191 406 5001 or email firstname.lastname@example.org