Ameliah McLaren-Parker – Trainee Solicitor in our Family department – discusses the recent case of Owens v Owens – are we edging closer to reform?

Ameliah McLaren-Parker, family department trainee solicitor at DBF Law

The recent Supreme Court ruling on Owens v Owens [2018] UKSC 41 has been the hot topic of many conversations and debates in the media; and also amongst legal professionals.

This case involves a husband and wife who were married for 40 years.  The wife filed a petition for divorce citing that the marriage had irretrievably broken down due to the husband’s unreasonable behaviour.  The husband defended the petition, arguing that the behaviour cited did not satisfy the requirements of section 1(2) (b) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (the MCA 1973).  The judge of first instance concluded that the wife’s 27 examples of the husband’s unreasonable behaviour were “flimsy” and therefore did not mean that the husband had behaved in such a way that the wife could not reasonably be expected to live with him.

The Supreme Court upheld the decision of the court at first instance, however, we will say, appropriately invited Parliament to reform the law.  As it currently stands, the law and its application in many cases is creating and feeding avoidable hostility between separating spouses.  We would hope that reform would provide individuals with more autonomy and authority to decide the outcome of their relationships and enable them to dissolve unhappy marriages with dignity, respect and without undue acrimony.

The Supreme Court undoubtedly respected and upheld the separation of powers between the judiciary and Parliament; however it is questionable as to whether it was Parliament’s intention to preserve unhappy marriages with the drafting of S1(2) MCA 1973.

It will be interesting to see whether Owens v Owens will provide Parliament with the much-needed encouragement to modernise the rather infamous and archaic ‘five facts’; and let individuals decide on their own matrimonial fate.

If you would like any advice in relation to a divorce, please do not hesitate to contact Caroline Bilous, Partner and Head of Family on 0161 832 3304.

For more information on Ameliah and her work, please click HERE.

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