Divorce battle to continue in Supreme Court

A wife has won the right to appeal to the Supreme Court following one of the most contentious divorce rulings of the past 12 months.

Tini Owens, aged 66, from Worcestershire, had been refused a divorce from her husband Hugh, after it was ruled that there wasn’t adequate evidence to prove that their relationship had irreparably broken down.

The dispute had arisen after Mrs Owens had sought to end her marriage of almost 40 years.

Unusually her husband had objected to the petition and a Family Court Judge had ruled in his favour, arguing that the examples of Mr Owens’ behaviour – as cited by his wife – were not sufficiently “unreasonable” to grant a decree absolute.

Earlier this year, the case went to the Court of Appeal, where Judges ultimately upheld the original ruling. In making their decision, they argued that they could not find that the law had been misinterpreted at the earlier hearing – although they did indicate they were not satisfied with the law itself.

Sir James Munby, the president of the family division, said at the time: “Parliament has decreed that it is not a ground for divorce that you find yourself in a wretchedly unhappy marriage, though some people may say it should be.”

Many commentators were concerned about the implications of the decision, especially given that the Judges had appeared to accept that the marriage had come to an end “in fact”.

As it stands, Mrs Owens would have to wait until she and her husband had been separated for five years – at which point she could secure a divorce regardless of whether her spouse still objected.

She is therefore pinning her hopes on the Supreme Court overturning the previous rulings. A date for the hearing has yet to be confirmed.

Peter Martin, the head of Family at OGR Stock Denton, said: “There are two things to learn from the Court of Appeal’s decision. The one everyone has commented on is that there should be a possibility of ‘no fault divorce’ and our current system creates unnecessary ill feeling.

“The second is less obvious. If one is petitioning for divorce, the terms of the petition should, if possible, be agreed with the other party. They can then be as tame as possible as the other person will consent, in which case the Judge’s will not scrutinise the petition as heavily to confirm the behaviour is objectively unreasonable.

“If the other person is not going to consent, you then know to make the petition as strong as possible, which is what Tini’s solicitors should have done.”

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