Opinion: England shows why it’s time for ‘no fault’ divorce in Jersey

Posted: 16/02/2017

Barbara CorbettValentine’s Day this year was memorable for all the wrong reasons for one wife, who went to the English Court of Appeal in a bid to overturn an earlier decision that she could not divorce her husband.

In the English Court of Appeal case of Owens v Owens, the Court was asked to decide if a judge was right to deny Mrs Owens a divorce, after her husband ‘defended’ (or objected to) her divorce petition on the grounds of his unreasonable behaviour. 

According to one local legal practitioner, the case shows how important it is to bring in no fault divorce in Jersey.

Advocate Barbara Corbett (pictured), Head of Family Law at Benest Corbett Renouf, said: ”It is time to move to no fault divorce to reduce the harm caused to couples, their children and society by making people have to blame one another in order to get a divorce. 

“The States of Jersey have the perfect opportunity to bring in no fault divorce to Jersey with the planned move to introduce equal marriage this year. It would be wonderful if Jersey could lead the way in ending the blame game. 

“It can be distressing enough when a relationship breaks down; making the legal process more difficult for people just compounds the problem, costing money, time and emotional strain.”

Three appeal judges, led by Sir James Munby, the most senior family court judge in England and Wales, analysed the case at a hearing in London on Tuesday. 

Advocate Corbett said it was very unusual in modern times for a court to dismiss a petition for divorce. Judge Robin Tolson had ruled against Mrs Owens in the family court last year, concluding that her allegations of Mr Owens’ unreasonable behaviour were "of the kind to be expected in marriage". 

The Judge then refused to grant a divorce petition, and Mrs Owens applied to the Court of Appeal, which will no doubt have been a costly and stressful experience.

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