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DIVORCE: how unreasonable is unreasonable behaviour?

HMB

I am a family divorce lawyer and mediator at Hopkin Murray Beskine Solicitors. The subject of divorce has been in the news   recently.

In one reported case, a wife was refused a divorce because the judge did not consider that the marriage had actually broken down: “it is not a ground for divorce if you find yourself in a wretchedly unhappy marriage” The wife felt unhappy, discontented and disillusioned in the relationship but that was not enough. She had to show that her husband had behaved in such a way that she could not reasonably be expected to live with him.  This was shocking to many, and goes against previous cases where judges have been unwilling to deny a divorce and have given a very wide interpretation to the term ‘unreasonable behaviour’ which if shown is a ground for divorce.

Marriage and divorce bring rights to the couple, and powers to the Court to re-distribute finances. Without a divorce you cannot achieve a sale of the family home unless both agree, or a sharing of pensions. These things are often most important to allow both spouses to move on and live apart.

For years there has been talk of the UK having a “no fault” divorce.  In Britain at present, divorce law requires one person to be at fault, such as ‘unreasonable behaviour’ or adultery, and if not, then the spouses have to have lived apart for 2 or 5 years.

Divorce proceedings are time consuming and expensive and the system needs simplifying. The Government stated recently though that they had no plans to change the existing law on divorce. This is taken to mean there will not be “no fault” divorce will not be happening. Despite this, a poll on 17th February 2017 found 69% of people polled were in favour of a “no fault” divorce.

Another case involved examination of a marriage. The husband stated that, because of a technical irregularity, they were not actually married and therefore could not divorce. The couple married in Syria and throughout the 16 years of their relationship they both considered themselves to be fully married. Evidence of the marriage was not available because of bombing in the local court house in Syria. The wife, wanting to claim financial support from her husband here, firstly had to prove they were married. The Court said you could presume a marriage existed when they had lived as a husband and wife, and the Court ruled that the parties were actually married.  The existence of a marriage was critical to the wife, as without it, she would have been unable to claim maintenance, a lump sum, or pension sharing. The alternatives were far less generous under different non-divorce laws.

If you have any questions or queries about this article or any of my other articles all of which are on our website www.hmbsolicitors.co.uk please feel free to email me on [email protected]. If there are any particular issues that any readers would like to ask please feel free to email me.

Sarah Beskine

Specialist Family Lawyer and Mediator

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Sarah Beskine
About Sarah Beskine (35 Articles)
I offer help and advice as a specialist in the field of family law whether you are seeking help with divorce, separation or conflicts regarding children’s disputes.