The decision to refuse Mrs Owen a divorce based on her allegations of unreasonable behaviour continues to concern family lawyers. So much so that Resolution is going to make representations in support of Mrs Owens’ current application for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court to formally intervene in that appeal if permission is granted. Resolution is an organisation of 6,500 family lawyers and other professionals in England and Wales, who believe in a constructive, non-confrontational approach to family law matters. Resolution also campaigns for improvements to the family justice system.
The concern is that the decision could mean that divorce petitions are drafted in a more confrontational way. The divorce petition often sets the tone for dealing with other issues arising from separation and any implication that this needs to be ‘beefed up’ is likely to make conflict more likely. Increased conflict almost inevitably leads to increased costs.
It must be borne in mind that Mrs Owens’ petition was defended. This is rare. Most petitions proceed on an undefended basis in which case it is extremely unlikely that a judge will refuse a petition on the basis that the allegations are too mild. So, despite this decision which continues to remain of interest, there is no need to panic.
Based at our Blackheath office, Rachel Duke is a Resolution member and is committed to continuing to ensure that cases are commenced as constructively as possible without going overboard with allegations in the petition.