Does There Always Have to be Someone to Blame?

A recent high-profile divorce case has firmly placed the issue of no-fault divorce back on the family law agenda. The case of Owens v Owens, was interesting and unusual, because the Judges at the Court of Appeal, found that the reasons given by the wife as to why her marriage had broken down, were simply not good enough. The case revives an on-going debate as to whether there is still a need for the Courts to know the details of why a marriage no longer works, and who is to blame. Should it not just be enough that one, or both of parties feels like the marriage is so broken that it cannot be fixed?

The law behind this, dates back to 1973. It outlines that the person applying for the divorce needs to evidence the ‘fact’ which has caused the marriage to break down irretrievably, limited to unreasonable behaviour, adultery, 2 years separation, 5 years separation or desertion.

Many think that this legislation is archaic and needs to be updated to reflect modern life. There is an argument that there are occasions where a no-fault divorce would be much more appropriate, and much less contentious, particularly where there are children of the marriage. ‘Resolution’ an organisation which works with family lawyers, are campaigning to ‘End the Blame Game’.

There is, of course, a counter-argument, that in terms of what getting married stands for, nothing has really changed since 1973. It is still, as it was then a commitment between two people that they are going to spend the rest of their lives together. Although undoubtedly the mechanics of married life have changed, the commitment is exactly the same. Would a no-fault divorce make the process of divorce all too simple, and somehow derogate the institution that is marriage?

The Supreme Court is set to hear the case of Owens v Owens in Spring 2018, and whatever the outcome, it will be of huge significance to both family lawyers and people considering a separation.

As things stand, a fact still needs to be cited in the divorce papers. If you are contemplating a separation or divorce, this is something we can discuss with you as well as all other aspects of the legal process including financial settlements and arrangements relating to children.

To find out more please email Jo Scott at or call for a chat on 0191 2970011