Divorce ……who’s the one at fault ?

There have been reports in the media recently that the marriage of Ant McPartlin and his wife Lisa Armstrong has finally come to an end and that Ant is to start divorce proceedings against her.

There has been much discussion about the difficulties that Ant has had with prescription drugs with him allegedly apologising to Lisa for putting her through hell with mood swings and depression so it may come as a surprise to hear that Ant intends to start the divorce.

If Ant is to start the divorce now then this can only be on the basis that his wife, Lisa, has committed adultery or that she has behaved unreasonably.

This is all at a time when the campaign for no fault divorce headed by Resolution, a national organisation committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes, is gaining ground. You can check out more information here

For anyone who missed the Tonight programme on ITV on Thursday 11th January, it’s worth a catch up.

The grounds for starting a divorce can often be contentious. If the other party has not committed adultery then the only option if they haven’t lived apart for at least 2 years is to allege that they have behaved unreasonably and examples will need to be given.

I have seen unreasonable behaviour allegations that have ranged from severe domestic abuse at one end through cohesive control with the other spouse checking mileage on cars, going through mobile phones and even husbands going through their wife’s handbags.

I have also seen divorces based on the other party’s addiction to watching TV, playing computer games leading to them neglecting the other party and the family home.

Unreasonable behaviour can be subjective and the wording used to record that level of unreasonable behaviour can often be a source of conflict between couples when there are other serious issues to resolve including the children’s arrangements and the division of the family assets.

This conflict can often spill over into the approaches taken by a couple to these other issues and may have a long running impact on the way they resolve matters.

The Court has to consider whether or not the examples of unreasonable behaviour given are serious enough. In most cases this will not be an issue because the other party is not contesting the divorce.

However, in the 2017 of Owens -v- Owens, the husband defended the wife’s unreasonable behaviour divorce petition against him on the basis that he did not consider his behaviour was unreasonable and that he wished to remain married to her.

The Judge refused to grant the wife’s Petition on the basis that the wife’s complaints were “altercations of a kind to be expected in a marriage”.

Unless Mr Owens changes his position then the only option for his wife would be to wait out a period of separation and then to issue divorce proceedings on the basis of five year’s separation.

Not only would that prevent Mrs Owens putting her affairs in order following divorce but it would prevent the Court being able to resolve the financial issues between the parties. It is only through divorce proceedings ending in Decree Absolute that the Court can make final binding Financial Orders.

There is, therefore, a fine line to be drawn between a solicitor having to ensure that there are enough allegations contained within the divorce proceedings to persuade a court to grant the divorce, balanced against the risk of causing conflict by referring to those allegations.

If divorce proceedings go ahead on the basis of unreasonable behaviour then it is rare for those allegations to have an impact on the issues arising between the couple in relation to the financial issues.

However, some allegations are so severe that they will be treated by the Court as “conduct” that cannot be ignored when considering a financial settlement. These can range from financial irresponsibility in how the family’s finances have been conducted during the marriage to a husband sexually abusing members of the wife’s family. These cases are obviously at the extremes.


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