Sir James Munby, the President of the Family Division has recently delivered a speech at the University of Edinburgh Law School castigating the speed of progress of reform in family law. Particular focus was given by Sir James regarding cohabitant’s rights, no-fault divorce, financial relief after divorce, access to and reporting of family cases and the cross-examination in person by alleged perpetrators of domestic violence of their alleged victims.
Certain of these issues were earmarked to be implemented as long ago as 1996, so the debate is just about older than most of our LPC graduates. The lack of financial protection for cohabitants and the continuing requirement for finding of fault in divorce petitions seem particularly archaic but parliament continue to be apparently resistant to change.
Regarding no-fault divorce in particular, Resolution which is a national body of family lawyers and other professionals committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes, has succeeded in an application to intervene in the case of Owens v Owens, the appeal for which is soon to be heard by the Supreme Court.
Owens v Owens is a case in which thus far the wife has been unable to obtain a divorce from her husband, on account of the initial trial judge being of the opinion that the husband’s behaviour was not ‘unreasonable’ and hence there being no fault attributed to the husband sufficient to establish that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.
Family lawyers and Resolution members in particular await the Supreme Court appeal with bated breath. Whilst the decision will not allow the statute books to be rewritten on divorce, experts believe that a successful appeal will lend even further weight to the argument in favour of no-fault divorce.