Monday 27 January 2020

Unhappiness not grounds for divorce, woman is told

Hugh Owens refuses to divorce his unhappy wife, Tini. Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Hugh Owens refuses to divorce his unhappy wife, Tini. Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Brian Farmer London

A woman who wants to divorce her husband of 40 years because she says their marriage is unhappy has lost a Supreme Court fight in the UK.

Five justices ruled that Tini Owens must stay married to Hugh Owens. They upheld rulings by a Family Court judge and Court of Appeal judges.

Tini Owens lost a court divorce fight at the Supreme Court after five justices ruled that she must stay married to husband Hugh. Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Tini Owens lost a court divorce fight at the Supreme Court after five justices ruled that she must stay married to husband Hugh. Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Ms Owens, who is in her late 60s, wants a divorce and says her marriage to Mr Owens, who is in his 80s, is loveless and has broken down.

She says he has behaved unreasonably and that she should not reasonably be expected to stay married. But Mr Owens refuses to agree to a divorce and denies Ms Owens's allegations about his behaviour.

He says if their marriage has irretrievably broken down it is because she had an affair, or because she is "bored".

The pair married in 1978 and lived in Broadway, Worcestershire, judges heard. Ms Owens petitioned for divorce in 2015 after moving out.

Supreme Court justices analysed rival legal arguments, revolving around concepts of "unreasonable" behaviour and "fault", at a Supreme Court hearing in London in May and delivered a ruling yesterday.

One, Lord Wilson, said justices had ruled against Ms Owens "with reluctance".

He said the "question for Parliament" was whether the law governing "entitlement to divorce" remained "satisfactory". Lord Wilson indicated Ms Owens would be able to divorce in 2020, when the couple have been separated for five years.

Another, Supreme Court president Lady Hale, said she found the case "very troubling", but said it was not for judges to "change the law".

Ms Owens had already lost two rounds of the battle. In 2016 she failed to persuade a Family Court judge to allow her to divorce, and last year three appeal judges ruled against her after a Court of Appeal hearing.

They said Ms Owens had failed to establish her marriage had, legally, irretrievably broken down and dismissed her challenge to a ruling by Judge Robin Tolson.

One appeal judge said she reached her conclusion with "no enthusiasm whatsoever" but that Parliament would have to decide whether to introduce "no fault" divorce on demand.

Another said Parliament had "decreed" that being in a "wretchedly unhappy marriage" was not grounds for divorce.

Ms Owens's lawyers say she should not have to prove Mr Owens's behaviour has been "unreasonable", only that she should not "reasonably be expected" to stay with him. They say the case is about "proper interpretation" of legislation.

Barrister Philip Marshall, for Ms Owens, told Supreme Court justices a "modest shift" of focus in interpretation of legislation was required. But Nigel Dyer, for Mr Owens, disagreed and raised concern about the introduction of divorce on "demand".

Irish Independent

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