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Millionaire’s wife refused divorce

The much publicised ruling by the Court of Appeal which refused Mrs Owens the right to divorce her millionaire husband of 40 years and left her trapped in a ‘loveless and desperately unhappy’ marriage has fuelled calls for parliament to review antiquated divorce laws last reformed in 1969. As the law stands if parties wish to divorce promptly following separation this will need to be based on one party being ‘blamed’ for the breakdown of the marriage. The alternatives are for the parties to either divorce on the basis of 2 years of separation with consent or wait until 5 years of separation after which time the divorce can proceed even if the other party does not consent. One of the difficulties with waiting until you have been separated for a period of at least 2 years is that you cannot resolve financial matters in a legally binding way until you are within divorce proceedings. This means that any financial agreement that you reach prior to this is potentially not final. Clients are surprised when you explain their options to them. Often they do not want to have to ‘blame’ their spouse citing their behaviour in the divorce petition. However, they still want to be able to obtain a divorce and resolve financial matters in a legally binding way without having to wait until the expiry of 2 years. Having to ‘blame’ the other party often causes difficulties between the parties at what is already a very difficult time. Resolution, a community of family justice professionals who work with families and individuals to resolve issues in a constructive way, has been championing a campaign for the government to reform divorce laws and introduce ‘no fault divorce’ . Girlings Solicitors’ Family Law team, all members of Resolution, passionately support this campaign and keenly await the outcome of the Owens’ case, now being taken to the Supreme Court, which hopefully will lead to a much overdue reform in divorce law.

For advice on issues concerning family, children, divorce & separation contact a member of the Family Law team 01227 367355.

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