So here it is, the decision from the Supreme Court. They refused Mrs Owens appeal, and have not taken the opportunity to reform our approach to divorce. The judgement is here and a snappy summary is here.
We view this as a shame, but not a surprise. The issues are:
1. Our divorce law is outdated (from 1973 which itself was based on 1969 law). It stems from a time when people didn’t often divorce, and it was a “big thing”. These days, it is not. Whether you think that right or wrong, there’s no escaping the fact it’s true. Our divorce law has not evolved to reflect this.
2. People are forced into an ugly situation where often they have to make allegations about behaviour which can make it even more difficult for a family to separate amicably.
3. Based on the tiny number of defended divorces, the reality is that people are either making things up, or just rolling over and allowing the divorces to go through. The current law isn’t even being applied properly.
4. Poor Mrs Owens, having to go through all of this so publicly.
5. How much would all of this cost? This particular case was supported by Resolution and others, but the fees for any contested divorce would be many thousands of pounds.
6. Clearly the law needs to be reformed to allow no fault divorce. Ultimately the Supreme Court felt this was a decision for Parliament and the electorate. That’s unsurprising.
7. Parliament needs to step up and face this issue. It affects so many people, and causes so much damage.
8. Sadly, we doubt they will. I remember the last attempt with the Family Law Act 1996. my view is this was vetoed because the press portrayed it as making divorce too easy, and the suggestion that morally blame should still be a part of the divorce process. But the reality is that if you want blame to be part of the process, there will need to be expensive court hearings for many divorces, causing more damage to separating families, costing huge amounts of money and taking up court time.
9. Are we really going to have to start beefing up allegations about behaviour in petitions? That would be incredibly backwards. I certainly won’t.
Is divorce reform still a political hot potato? Perhaps yes. How frustrating.
Posted by Peter