Who Dunnit: Playing the Blame Game in a Divorce

Posted July 30, 2018 in Family Law by Gina Policastri.

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July 30, 2018
Who Dunnit: Playing the Blame Game in a Divorce
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Obtaining a divorce can be time consuming and expensive, especially when one spouse blames the other for the marriage’s end. Will the court take into consideration who behaved badly or caused the divorce? Although courts in England will be concerned with who is at “fault” before granting a divorce, California courts will not take “fault” into consideration.

In California, a couple may obtain a “no-fault” divorce – neither spouse must prove the other is at fault for the marriage’s breakdown. In the 1800s, however, England only allowed divorces where one spouse could prove the other was at “fault.” This rule remains in effect today, in part.

In England, courts will grant a divorce only if the party seeking the divorce can prove the marriage has irretrievably broken down by establishing one of the five following facts: (a) adultery, (b) unreasonable behavior, (c) desertion, (d) two years of separation with consent, or (e) five years of separation with or without consent. While the last two grounds for divorce do not require one spouse to prove that the other spouse was at fault, proving adultery and “unreasonable behavior” often requires spouses to play the blame game.

On July 25, 2018, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom ruled Tini Owens, an English wife, must remain married to Hugh Owens, her husband of 40 years after she failed to prove her husband was at fault for the breakdown in their marriage. Tini contemplated divorce in 2012 and moved out of the couple’s home in February 2015. Tini argued her husband engaged in “unreasonable behavior” such that she could not reasonably be expected to continue their marriage. Hugh argued if the marriage had broken down, it must have been because Tini had an affair or was “bored.”

While many progressives and lawyers hoped for the court to grant the divorce, the court refused. One Supreme Court judge stated that Parliament had “decreed” that being in a “wretchedly unhappy marriage” was not a ground for divorce. Thus, the Supreme Court rejected the modern trend toward the “no-fault” divorce system in the United Kingdom and United States.

Fortunately, in California, grounds for divorce range from “irreconcilable differences” to “permanent legal incapacity to make decisions,” formerly known as “incurable insanity.” Moreover, evidence of specific acts of misconduct are not admissible in dissolution or separation proceedings, except for history of domestic abuse in cases involving child custody or restraining orders. If you are contemplating divorce, regardless of who is at “fault,” contact the experienced attorneys at Lonich & Patton for a free half-hour consultation.

Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results. While this post may detail general legal issues, it is not legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship

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