Unhappy spouses seeking divorces face huge delays if they fail to take the appropriate action at the right time, Thursfields Solicitors has warned.
The guidance comes after a woman who wanted to divorce her husband on the grounds she was unhappy lost her Supreme Court appeal.
In the recent Owens v Owens case, judges heard that Mrs Owens had been contemplating divorce since 2012 but had not left the matrimonial home until February 2015 – meaning that a divorce on no-fault grounds could not be granted until 2020.
Shane Miller, director and head of the Family Department at Thursfields, said: “Unhappy spouses need to remember that the only ground for divorce is that your marriage has irretrievably broken, and you then have to petition on one of five facts.
In the Owens v Owens case, that claimed fact was unreasonable behaviour, and this has to be on the basis that you are not able to live with that person anymore.
But because the husband refused his consent to the divorce on that basis, Mrs Owens now needs to wait five years from the date of separation for a divorce, starting from the day she left the marital home.”
Shane said the Supreme Court was right to reject Mrs Owens’ attempt to radically reinterpret the requirements for a behaviour divorce brought under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.
She also highlighted the need for unhappy spouses to take the correct action at the right time when considering a divorce, and to seek the best legal advice to make sure this is properly planned.
She said: “As the court ruled, a wife who claimed to be unhappy is stuck with the marriage for at least another two years because she stayed in the marital home despite wanting a divorce.
This shows the Courts will simply not grant a petition for divorce any faster based on your own adultery, or simply because you are bored of your marriage.
Therefore, if you want a divorce but it is contested, you need to plan – and this includes ending your marriage as soon possible, which could mean living separately or separate lives in the same household, so that any five-year clock starts on that date.”
Commenting on the overall implications of the Owens v Owens case, Shane added: “While I agree with the legal judgement in this case, I equally think that parliament need to reconsider the no-fault divorce process.
It is a careful balance of making the whole process a little more conciliatory but not making the marriage vows worthless.”