Supreme Court hears Owens v Owens; and the calls for no fault divorce get louder

On 17 May 2018, the Supreme Court heard the case of Owens v Owens.

Mrs Tini Owens was previously denied a divorce from her husband on the grounds that her his behaviour was not ‘unreasonable’ enough for the purposes of the divorce petition.

The parties were married in 1978 and had two adult children. Mrs Owens left the matrimonial home in February 2015 and issued a petition based on her husband’s unreasonable behaviour. The included ‘standard’ allegations of behaviour such as mood swings and disparaging comments.

However, Mr Owens decided to defend the divorce, and filed what is known as an ‘answer’, denying that the marriage had irretrievably broken down.

Mrs Owens was given permission to amend her petition in order to give more detail of her allegations. Mr Owens responded to each and every one and the matter went to a trial where both parties gave oral evidence to the court.

The judge denied Mrs Owens a divorce and concluded that:

“’I have not found this a difficult case to determine. I find no behaviour such that the wife cannot reasonably be expected to live with the husband. The fact that she does not live with the husband has other causes. The petition will be dismissed.”

Mrs Owens appealed to the Court of Appeal and lost. The Court of Appeal could find no fault with the judge’s approach.

Mrs Owens appealed again, this time to the Supreme Court. The national association of family lawyers, Resolution, was granted permission to intervene in the case on behalf of Mrs Owens, arguing that the current law can be applied in a way that allows her the divorce she is seeking.

Mr and Mrs Owens and family lawyers around the country are now awaiting the Supreme Court’s judgment with baited breath. Many believe that the current system, which leaves people like Mrs Owens trapped in unhappy marriages, is outdated and unfair. In a survey of professionals by Resolution, 9 out of 10 agreed the current law makes it harder for them to reduce conflict and confrontation between clients and their ex-partners.

At Rayden Solicitors, all our solicitors are members of Resolution and we support the call for people to be able to divorce without blame.

More information about Resolution’s campaign can be found here.

If you would like to speak to one of our family law specialists about divorce or other family matters please contact us.

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