The long-awaited decision on Owens is in, and to many, it will not have come as a surprise. Whilst the court may have expressed that the appeal may generate “uneasy feelings” it went on to qualify that “uneasy feelings are of no consequence to this court”. The judgement made it clear that its hands are bound by the statute.
The court of the lower tier may have reached an unpalatable decision but that did not make it wrong in law. The decision was ultimately one for the lower court Judge and in his opinion, the husband’s behaviour was not such that the wife could not reasonably be expected to live with him. It can be stripped back to just that.
This will have ramifications for divorcing parties – it is difficult to see how defended divorces now will not become more common.
The judgement, para 15, says
“in relation to 114,000 petitions filed in 2016, fewer than 800 Answers [ the intention to defend the divorce being communicated to the court via the Answer] were filed…the number which proceeded to a final hearing was 0.015% ..”
The court is clear that it must apply the act which governs divorce, unless repealed by parliament, albeit it “ takes no satisfaction”.
There is a positive note to couples in paragraph 17 whereby the court is clear that “the expectations are that almost every petition will succeed”
Costs will increase with the litigation which necessarily ensues with a defended divorce.
If you need help regarding divorce or what today’s ruling means for the future of Family Law, you can speak to Joanna on 0330 058 4012 or complete the form below.
Head of Family Law