Owens v Owens verdict 'underlines urgent need for no fault divorce'

24 Mar 2017

The Court of Appeal has today (24 March) dismissed Mrs Owens' appeal in the defended divorce case, effectively saying that she must remain married to her husband.

Speaking immediately following the judgement, Resolution's Chair, Nigel Shepherd, said:

"This judgment will obviously come as a disappointment to Mrs Owens, and absolutely underlines the urgent need for no-fault divorce. Nobody should be compelled to remain in a marriage against their will, yet judges' hands are tied by the current divorce law. Sadly, all too often, couples are forced to play the blame game, and today’s decision demonstrates why this needs to change.

"As the President of the Family Division rightly asks in the judgment, 'ought the decision whether or not a marriage should be dissolved to be one for the parties which the State is not in a position to question?’"

"At Resolution we have long campaigned for reform in order to reduce conflict and support separating couples to resolve matters amicably, notably at our very successful lobby of Parliament last November, which was received positively by MPs from all parties.

"The simple fact is, this case should not have been necessary. Only by implementing a no-fault divorce system can we ensure such a situation doesn’t happen again.

"This is why we are today repeating our call on the Government to change the law and introduce no-fault divorce. The reasons for marriages breaking down are often complex and rarely will both spouses agree on them.

"It is simply wrong that, in 2017, anyone who can’t afford to put their lives on hold for two years whilst waiting to divorce is required to apportion blame. And asking judges to rule on who did what is unacceptable in a modern society. People need to be helped to focus on the future not pushed into recriminating on the past.

"No-fault divorce is widely supported. 69% of the public want to remove blame, as do – among others - Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division; Sir Paul Coleridge, chairman of the Marriage Foundation; and Lord Wilson of Culworth, a Supreme Court judge.

"Successive governments have dragged their heels on this issue for too long. Owens v Owens must be the spark that ignites a fundamental change in our divorce law."