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Husband tells court his wife must be mad to want to divorce him

A REJECTED husband attempted to stop his wife divorcing him by telling a court that she must be mad to want to leave him.

Peter Savva, 64, said that his wife of 34 years, Niki, must be “ill” or “confused” to want to end their marriage.

He was so convinced that he asked the Court of Appeal in London to order psychiatric tests on her, claiming that she lacked mental “capacity” to instruct solicitors.

But yesterday a senior judge rejected his legal challenge after hearing that Mrs Savva, a biology teacher from Finchley, north London, was “fed up” with his claims.

Lady Justice Black found that Mrs Savva showed no sign of being mentally unstable – but that her husband was simply struggling to accept that the marriage was over.

Mr Savva, from Crouch End, north London, maintains that his wife began divorce proceedings while she was “angry and unhappy” and that she should have been made to go through a “cooling off” period before going ahead with the divorce.

The court heard that Mrs Savva, who has two children with her husband, lodged a divorce petition at Barnet Country Court in north London last year.

A preliminary order to dissolve the marriage has already been granted on the grounds that it had “irretrievably broken down”.

But Mr Savva took his case to the Court of Appeal seeking leave to appeal the initial decree nisi before the divorce could be finalised.

The earlier hearing before Judge Markanza Cudby was told that the couple had slept in separate bedrooms for the last eight years.

Mr Savva disputed this – saying that they had only been in separate rooms for two years "because of the house being in a bit of a state, her needing her own space and having a lot of work documents."

He accepted that the marriage had “temporarily broken down” but added: “It is not permanently broken down.

“My wife has suffered a breakdown ... she must be ill otherwise she wouldn't have said these things ... she's confused.”

During his application for leave to appeal he told Lady Justice Black: “I consider that my wife lacks proper mental capacity to give instructions to her solicitors.

"The demeanour and testimonies of the parties were treated as findings of fact in the absence of substantive evidence.”

But Lady Justice Black told the court: "He considers that his wife has been unduly influenced by her solicitors, her mother and others.

“He considers she is unwell and lacking in capacity and he can't accept that she has brought this divorce petition for any reason other than that.

"The wife did not come across as in any way unwell or in need of psychiatric assistance.

“It was in fact the husband who was struggling to come to terms with the facts about the marriage.

"It was open to the judge to make the findings of fact she did about the husband's behaviour and the wife's mental state.”

She also endorsed Judge Cudby’s earlier judgment which described the case as a “very sad”.

“It is always sad when one party says the marriage has ended and the other does not. In these circumstances there are no winners,” the earlier judgment remarked.

"He felt part of the reason why he feels his wife is mentally ill is because she wants to divorce him and could not understand why that would be.

"The husband finds all of this very difficult ... he struggles and reaches out for any excuse other than the truth.

"The wife struck me as a lady who was upright, honest and, not unsurprisingly frankly, fed up with all that has been going on.

“She did not come across to me as in any way psychotically unwell or in need of any assistance."

Speaking outside court, Mr Savva said that he would now seek a judicial review of the laws governing the process of divorce

"Once the process of divorce starts it is very difficult to stop,” he said.

“It is a shame that the system will destroy a marriage for a silly reason.

He added: "Irretrievable breakdown is very subjective. One judge in court on one day can make a decision which can relate to half of somebody's life and will cause irreparable damage to the parties. It affects society."

The financial side of the divorce has already been dealt with by consent.