This article was published on April 19th, 2017
Three Appeal Court judge’s have upheld an original family court ruling to refuse a divorce on the grounds of that the reasons given, did not meet ‘unreasonable behaviour’ definitions. The reasons given by the wife for wanting a divorce did not fall into any of the 5 categories legally allowed for an irretrievable breakdown:
Although she made 27 claims about how his behaviour toward her makes her feel unhappy and want to leave her husband of 40 years, none of them fall into categories for ‘unreasonable behaviour’ such as verbal or physical abuse or adultery.
The husband’s solicitor said: “At the moment, as the law stands, unhappiness, discontent, disillusionment are not facts which a petitioner can rely upon as facts which prove irretrievable breakdown.”
The reason this case is unusual is because, on this occasion, the divorce is being defended by the husband and in most cases, it is a mutual decision to separate and a divorce is undefended. But it appears that judges are following the letter of the law and until a ‘no fault’ option is legal, this situation may happen again.
Claims have been made that the absence of a ‘no blame’ option for divorces, encourages couples to allege more serious problems about their relationships just so the ‘unreasonable behaviour’ box can be ticked and this makes the process far more stressful than it needs to be.
Lady Justice Hallett, who was one of the appeal court judges on this case, said: “It is for parliament to decide whether to amend [the law] and to introduce ‘no fault’ divorce on demand; it is not for the judges to usurp their function.”
The wife’s only option now is to petition for divorce when she can prove continuous separation for five years.
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