Recruitment by professionals, for professionals

To Reform or Not to Reform?

Recently I celebrated five years working at Law Staff Legal Recruitment. I have started to reflect about how much has changed or reformed since I started and how this has impacted on not just me but the workplace as a whole. Reform happens in all sectors and recently the legal sector has stepped up and answered family practitioners calls for reform to divorce laws. So, in light of this, why do we need reform and how essential is it for not only the legal sector, but businesses to change with modern society?

Following the case of Owens v Owens in 2018 it was felt by many legal professionals that the law surrounding this area, which has not been changed since the 1973 Matrimonial Causes Act, needed to be reformed to reflect today’s society. One area in particular relates to proving fault when asking for a divorce.

So, what is Owens v Owens and why has it been so important?

Owens v Owens concerned Mr and Mrs Owens who were married in 1978 and went on to have two children. With the marriage then hitting difficulties, Mrs Owens initially consulted her solicitor about a divorce in June 2012. She then moved out of the former matrimonial home in February 2015 and has not lived with Mr Owens since. In May 2015, Mrs Owens then filed a divorce petition which requires the petition under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 to satisfy to the court 'that the respondent has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent'. Mrs Owens provided particulars of incidents evidencing this. Whilst such petitions normally progress without any real scrutiny, Mr Owens then defended the case, arguing that the examples given of his behaviour were not sufficient to satisfy the test.

The judge in the case, whilst finding that the marriage had broken down and Mrs Owens could not continue to live with Mr Owens, dismissed the appeal. Mrs Owens then appealed first to the Court of Appeal, who dismissed the appeal, and then to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed that appeal.

Following this decision, it strengthened the view felt by many practitioners that it was out of touch with the social values of modern society and that in many cases it would present people with options, which to them, would probably be unacceptable. Considering data has shown that in 2018 118,000 people petitioned for divorce under the current system, this case is likely to not be uncommon.

The consultation by the Ministry of Justice on reforming the legal requirements in divorce went on to attract more than 600 responses which were “broadly supportive” of the proposals to remove the fault-based approach. The Justice Secretary went on to say that the response was “overwhelmingly in support, which is why I remain as convinced as I have been for the need to reform this particular area.”

So, what’s next for divorce law?

Moving forward, the new legislation which will be brought in with no-fault divorce, will mean that couples will now be able to apply for divorce without apportioning blame to one particular party for the breakdown of the marriage. It is felt this will simplify current practices and ultimately reduce conflict between couples. The Law Society’s outgoing President Christina Blacklaws quote on this decision sums this up when saying ‘Introducing a "no fault" divorce will change the way couples obtain a divorce - for the better.'

Well, how does this all relate to me?

Whilst you may not work in family or even the legal framework we can take this call for reform and change and apply it to any sector or modern business. Here at Law Staff Legal Recruitment we take an active interest in understanding the ever-changing landscape of recruitment but also in understanding how we can reform our working environment for the better. This is done through the continual review of policies and procedures and best working practices. From a personal perspective reform has allowed me to grow professionally in the workplace learn new and build upon skills I already had.

In summary, without reform our laws would become outdated in modern society and businesses would find themselves out of touch in the fast-paced society we now live in. As we embrace the opportunities reforms can bring, we should not lose sight of the fact that at the heart of these reforms, particularly in divorce are human beings and their personal relationships with their loved ones.