Calls for change to the law after woman in unhappy marriage denied divorce

26th July 2018

Calls for change to the law after woman in unhappy marriage denied divorce

A woman who says she is stuck in a loveless and unhappy marriage has been refused the right to a divorce after judges told her there were no legal grounds to end her wedlock.

Tini Owens, 68, has been told she cannot divorce Hugh Owens, 80, despite claiming their marriage has broken down.

The decision has prompted renewed calls for the introduction of a ‘no fault’ divorce, which would allow couples to split without having to cite the bad behaviour of one partner as the reason.

Mrs Owens had argued that her husband behaved unreasonably and that she should not be expected to stay married. However, Mr Owens refused to agree to a divorce and denied the allegations about his behaviour, saying that if their marriage had irretrievably broken down it was because she had an affair, or because she was “bored”.

In making their decision, Supreme Court justices admitted they had made their ruling with “reluctance” but said the matter was a question for Parliament as to whether the law governing divorce was still fit for purpose.

Mrs Owens will be able to divorce in 2020, when the couple have been separated for five years.

Speaking after the ruling, Simon Beccle, Mrs Owens’s lawyer, said: “Mrs Owens is devastated by this decision, which means that she cannot move forward with her life and obtain her independence from Mr Owens.”

Mrs Owens originally petitioned for a divorce in 2015 after moving out of the marital home. However, both the Family Court and the Court of Appeal refused her petition, with judges ruling she had failed to establish her marriage had legally, irretrievably broken down.

Under what circumstances can a divorce be granted?

The person who petitions for a divorce must show the marriage has broken down irretrievably under one of these five “facts”:

• Adultery
• Unreasonable behaviour
• Desertion
• You have lived apart for more than two years and both agree to the divorce
• You have lived apart for at least five years, even if your husband or wife disagrees

How can our divorce lawyers help?

This case illustrates the need to overhaul divorce laws in the UK, which require updating to prevent those in loveless marriages being unable to seek divorce.

In the case of Mrs Owens, the Supreme Court had little option but to reject her case, because their job is to interpret legislation and not to change it, however much that might be needed.

At Gotelee, our divorce lawyers carefully advise clients on the strength of their application to ensure they do not waste time and money on cases that don’t meet the the legal criteria.

We can provide guidance on how to get divorced, the myths, timescale and cost, and the implications surrounding children and financial arrangements.

Our family lawyers can see you in Ipswich, Hadleigh, Felixstowe, Woodbridge or Melton.

To find out more or to make a fixed fee appointment, call 01473 211121 or email [email protected]

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