A friend’s marriage has broken down after she discovered her husband was having an affair. He offers no financial support, or help with their children. Should I get involved?
A friend of mine is married to an old school friend, and they have two small children. She discovered he was having an affair two years ago, and his refusal to acknowledge the hurt and betrayal of this has led to the permanent breakup of the relationship. He is now barely supporting her, although he earns much more. He won’t do school runs as his job is “too important”.
He’s now living with his parents and has little contact with friends, hardly any of whom know what caused the split. He is making her move out of the apartment they shared, and forbidding her new partner having contact with the children. The question is, should I be helping her find a pitbull of a lawyer, or is it a) advisable and b) morally OK for me to talk to him in the hope of making him realise what his awful behaviour is doing? I am afraid he might take it out on her if I approach him, but I can’t help remember what a reasonable and lovely person he was previously. Part of me hopes he might wake up. Am I wasting my time?
Introducing a no-fault system for divorce would free partners from apportioning blame for the breakdown of their marriage
This week has seen the unedifying spectacle of a wife who wishes to exit her marriage, Tini Owens, taking her fight to be able to do so to the highest court in the land. Many have questioned why the state should have any say in such personal affairs. In England and Wales, there were about 107,000 divorces in 2016. The legal test for whether someone is entitled to a decree of divorce is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. That must be established by reference to one of five grounds, two of which – adultery and unreasonable behaviour – are fault-based. About 60% of divorces are based on one of those grounds.
There is a groundswell of opinion that it is time the law changed so that fault-based divorce need not be the norm. Lady Hale (who presided over the Owens hearing this week), the outgoing president of the high court’s family division, Sir James Munby, and Sir Paul Coleridge of the Marriage Foundation are among high-profile supporters of change. The family law organisation Resolution, of which I am a past chair, has campaigned on the issue for years. The fact that Tini Owens has not (so far) been able to prove that her husband’s behaviour has been so bad as to meet the legal test and remains locked in an unhappy marriage, adds weight to these views.
Hugh Owens does not consent to dissolving his marriage so Tini must return to court for the third time. No-fault divorce would cut conflict between couples, say family law experts
The strange case of Tini Owens, who cannot escape her loveless marriage, comes before the UK’s highest court on Thursday as pressure grows to legalise no-fault divorce.
Owens, 67, who lives in Worcestershire, has applied to overturn a ruling by the court of appeal that her union with her husband Hugh, 79, a retired mushroom farmer, has not broken down irretrievably despite her having an affair.
The current process for ending a marriage is demeaning and painful. Owens’s experience of a contested divorce shows it’s time to overhaul the law
In many ways, the case of Owens v Owens is not exceptional. The couple married in 1978, built a prosperous business together, bought property and had children. However, Tini, 66, and husband, Hugh, 78, have lived separately since 2015.
What is unusual is that Mrs Owens’s petition for a divorce has been contested by her husband – something that happens in just 1% of divorces. In this case, Mr Owens refutes the 27 allegations of his “unreasonable behaviour”. More unusual still, Mrs Owens’s divorce petition has been rejected by the high court and the court of appeal, where she was told that her husband’s behaviour was “to be expected in a marriage” and that “parliament has decreed that it is not a ground for divorce that you find yourself in a wretchedly unhappy marriage”.
Dress from a charity shop, no cake and a midweek ceremony – but don’t think my second wedding is a joke
We arrived, my betrothed and I, at the register office to give notification of our marriage. It was the last possible moment we could have done it, because my divorce took so long to come through and his was so long ago that he’d lost the piece of paper. It was also the emergency walk-in morning, so everyone else needed an urgent death certificate, or was a too-old baby who’d missed the registration deadline. Tensions were high and everyone seemed on the point of tears, because they were bereaved, or they were seven weeks old.
I gave notice here the first time I got married, when the registrar was a Guardian reader and said merrily, “Well, I can’t see anyone coercing you!” I was hoping we didn’t see the same guy, though I’m sure they have a protocol for that, like waiters in restaurants when you go in with different dates on consecutive nights.
I observe the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle with a profound fellow feeling
The youngest wants to dress as a member of WICKED, which I think is the best idea I’ve heard
‘It can’t have been easy dealing with a teenager who wasn’t your own, working out how far to involve yourself and when to step back’: the letter you always wanted to write
You came into my daughter’s life when she was seven. We met for the first time at her eighth birthday party. English wasn’t your first language, but your smile was genuine. You knew my daughter liked drawing, and you gave her colouring pencils and a book; I was touched by the thoughtfulness.
You accepted, from the start, that she was part of the deal; your relationship with her dad would always be shared. Wednesday nights and every other weekend she came to you. She joined you on holidays, and sometimes when, frazzled from battling with her, I’d call her dad for respite. You offered me empathy and kindness. You could have resented it, but you welcomed the opportunity to help.
Nuffield Foundation says outdated law needs a no-fault divorce option
The lack of no-fault divorce in England and Wales is forcing separating couples into unnecessary and unsuccessful courtroom battles to establish who caused the breakdown, according to a report by the Nuffield Foundation.
The charitable trust’s detailed study of nearly 500 divorces, led by Prof Liz Trinder of Exeter university, finds that many “defended cases are triggered by the law itself” which is out of step with most other jurisdictions in Europe and North America.
Katherine Woodward Thomas’s term went mainstream when Gwyneth Paltrow used it to announce her separation from Chris Martin. But, argues the lifestyle guru, divorcing happily is not just for the rich and famous
For someone who has coached thousands of people through their separations, been through a divorce herself and written a book on how to have a better breakup, Katherine Woodward Thomas still likes the idea of a lifelong union. But, she says, it is unrealistic. “We have to remember that ‘happily ever after’ was a myth created about 400 years ago, when lifespan was less than 40 and people were not mobile and had very few choices in life,” she says. “I do think that people are ready for new alternatives. I love the idea that when we partner we have the intention of doing it for the long haul, however ‘conscious uncoupling’ is an alternative should it be clear that you will be breaking up.”
Woodward Thomas’s term shot to fame in 2014 when Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin used it in a blogpost on Paltrow’s Goop website to describe how they were handling their separation. Woodward Thomas had already had some success with a previous book about how to find a relationship, but the dissolution of the Paltrow-Martin marriage brought her to a wider audience. Her book Conscious Uncoupling: The Five Steps to Living Happily Even After was published in 2015, based on the breakup work she had been doing since 2009. Woodward Thomas, who lives in Los Angeles – on a separate floor in the same building as her ex-husband – has just flown into London for a series of talks. A psychotherapist who has spent nearly 25 years as a relationship coach, she is softly spoken but with a direct gaze, given to using words such as “alignment” and “intentions”.
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