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Peter Martin

Peter Martin

Partner - Family

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The Supreme Court has upheld an earlier court decision that a wife is not entitled to divorce her husband on her stated grounds of unreasonable behaviour and she must now wait until 2020 to petition – based upon 5 years separation.

In this case, the wife issued her divorce petition setting out her basis for saying the husband’s behaviour towards her was unreasonable.  The husband disagreed and so defended her petition, claiming that the marriage had not broken down.  The case went to a full hearing and the court concluded in an earlier decision that the examples of behaviour complained of by the wife were nothing out of the ordinary for such a long marriage and so could not be relied upon for a divorce.

The decision was appealed by the wife and ultimately has ended upon with the Supreme Court decision.

Resolution – first for family law and its family lawyer members – has long since been campaigning for a change in the law which is over 45 years old and most believe, out of touch.  Family lawyers point out that the current requirement to divorce soon after separation, by putting the blame on one party, is serving no one and causing more acrimony and distress to families.

In this current case, the problem arises from the wording of the wife’s divorce petition which the court considered inadequate to prove the basis of her unreasonable behaviour petition.  The court felt that, due to the current state of the law, the petition could not succeed.

Perhaps more importantly, this case highlights the importance of taking legal advice at an early stage and before divorce proceedings are issued.  There is a growing trend towards DIY or online divorce services which become attractive due to their perceived lower cost.  Most people believe that solicitors dealing with divorce will be expensive, but this is a common misconception.  Most Family Solicitors, particularly those that are members of Resolution, offer a high quality service and a very reasonable fixed price for undefended divorces.  This can avoid delays and complications where the Court may be dissatisfied with the contents of the documents that are submitted.

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