The catalyst for change?

The Supreme Court today rejected Mrs Tini Owens’ appeal to end her unhappy marriage to her husband High Owens, thereby dismissing her application for divorce.

Mr and Mrs Owens married in 1978 and have two adult children. Although she stated that she had been contemplating divorce since 2012, she only separated from her husband in February 2015.

Mrs Owens stated the reason for the  divorce is that the marriage had ‘irretrievably broken down’. In  England and Wales however, one of the following five  facts must be proved for divorce to be agreed:

  • 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

Mrs Owens alleged that there had been unreasonable  behaviour from her husband. It is rare for petitions of divorce to be defended, but Mr Owens defended the petition, and initially the court found that the allegations of unreasonable behaviour were ‘flimsy and exaggerated’ and refused to grant a decree of divorce.

This decision was upheld by the Supreme Court today, meaning that Mrs Owens has to wait until February 2020 before re-issuing her petition using the fact that she has been living apart from Mr Owens for a period of 5 years. Lady Hale, President of the Family Division of the Supreme Court said that she found the case “very troubling, but it was not for judges to change the law”.

By this she means Parliament need to  do this. These comments  would appear to be a direct pointer to the government to look at reviewing and updating the current law on divorce.

Many family solicitors believe that the current law should be updated to allow a ‘No Fault’ divorce. This would have the advantage of minimising  parties’ distress during what is, inevitably, a highly stressful time for them and their children and  families. This would also avoid  allegations of unreasonable behaviour or adultery against another party which can also have an adverse effect on the children and  family going  forward.

Nicholas Clough and Sally Leaman of Price Slater Gawne are experienced Family and Divorce solicitors who can advise you in relation to any questions or concerns you may have in relation to the breakdown of your relationship. If you would like to contact Nicholas or Sally in complete confidence, please call 0161 6155554.