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As it stands in England and Wales, if a married couple wish to divorce, the divorcing party must prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. To do so they must cite one of the following five reasons: adultery; unreasonable behaviour; desertion; two years of separation with consent; five years of separation without consent.

But what happens if the reasons for divorce are not as extreme as the law requires, or the couple have simply fallen out of love? In the current system, couples who are in agreement that they want to divorce without apportioning blame must wait at least two years before they can file.

In the case of Tini Owens – who petitioned to end her 40-year marriage to her husband, Hugh, on grounds of ‘unreasonable behaviour’ and being ‘deeply unhappy’ – her case was unanimously rejected by the Supreme Court. The initial judge who heard the case stated that her reasons were ‘flimsy and exaggerated’ and her husband denied her claims.

Following this ruling, campaign groups have been calling for the introduction of ‘no-fault divorces’.  A no-fault divorce would allow the divorcing party to petition without placing blame on either party, a move which campaigners say could save couples both money and anguish but critics say could see an increase in ‘divorce on demand’.

A recent survey of more than 1,000 divorced Britons indicated that 80% would have chosen a ‘no-fault divorce’ had they been offered it and 14% even admitted to exaggerating claims of adultery and the length of separation to speed the process up.

If ‘no-fault divorce’ was brought in to law the process could, perhaps, be more administrative and could, as some campaigners claim, ease the stress and further deterioration of the relationship.

To speak to our expert Family Law team, please call 0191 218 6151 or email Emily Cannell, Associate Family Law Solicitor

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