Divorce in England – Time for a Change? by Bethany Grimwood, Paralegal

Current Divorce System

When you apply for a divorce in this country you must prove that your marriage has irretrievably broken down and rely on one of the following five grounds:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • You have lived apart for more than two years and both agree to the divorce
  • You have lived apart for at least five years, even if your husband or wife disagrees


However, it is problematic that under the current system if a divorce is sought before there has been two years of separation then blame must be placed on the other party. This problem has been highlighted in the current case of Owens v Owens [2018] UKSC 41.

In this case, the Judge accepted that the marriage had irretrievably broken down, but he felt unable to grant Mrs Owens a divorce as Mr Owen’s behaviour had not been sufficiently unreasonable. In the recent unsuccessful final appeal to the Supreme Court, Lord Wilson expressed that Justices had ruled against Mrs Owens “with reluctance” but it was a case for Parliament to review the current law on divorce.

Time for Reform?

The case of “Owens” has sparked a nation-wide debate on whether the law surrounding divorce is in need of reform. Nigel Shepherd, the chair of Resolution (a national organisation of family lawyers), said: “We are today repeating our call on the Government to change the law and introduce no-fault divorce. The reasons for marriages breaking down are often complex and rarely will both spouses agree on them.”

Following the ruling, the Ministry of Justice said: “The current system of divorce creates unnecessary antagonism in an already difficult situation. We are already looking closely at possible reforms to the system”

Nevertheless, unless reforms are implemented, the current system will remain in place.

How can we help?

We understand that divorce can be a lengthy and emotional process. If you would like advice on your circumstances, call our excellent specialist family team on 01325 281111 or email