Britain:Supreme Court rules woman in ‘loveless marriage’ cannot have a divorce and must stay married to husband


Tini Owens, who is in her late sixties, has been told she cannot divorce Hugh Owens, 78, despite claiming their marriage has broken down following an affair she had several years ago

‘Remarkable’ ruling demonstrates divorce laws are not fit for 21st century, say politicians and lawyers

 

The Supreme Court has ordered a woman to stay married to her husband of 40 years, rejecting her attempts to divorce him because the marriage is “loveless and has broken down”.

Tini Owens, 68, has been told she cannot divorce Hugh Owens, 78, despite claiming their marriage has broken down following an affair she had several years ago.

Politicians and legal experts said the “remarkable” ruling demonstrated that divorce laws were not fit for the 21st century and showed the need for “no fault” divorce, which forces couples to justify to the court why their marriage has broken down.

Supreme Court justices analysed rival legal arguments, which revolved around concepts of “unreasonable” behavior and “fault”, at a Supreme Court hearing in London in May and delivered a ruling on Wednesday.

One, Lord Wilson, said justices had ruled against Ms Owens “with reluctance”, saying the “question for parliament” was whether the law governing “entitlement to divorce” remained “satisfactory”.

Lord Wilson indicated that 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 she said it was not for judges to “change the law”.

The current law in England and Wales does not allow one spouse to unilaterally decide to divorce because they are in an unhappy marriage. Instead, the spouse that wishes to leave must allege “unreasonable behaviour” and give examples of this to the Court.

Alternatively, if they do not wish to apportion “blame” to the other spouse and there is no adultery, then they must wait two years where a divorce can be granted if both spouses consent to it.

If both spouses do not consent, then the spouse who wishes to divorce must be separated for five years from their spouse before being entitled to a divorce.

Richard Burgon MP, Labour’s shadow justice secretary, said the ruling underlined why the UK’s divorce laws needed to change urgently.

“Labour is committed to introducing no fault divorce proceedings. The Conservatives should stop denying people this basic right and immediately agree to do the same, so that our divorce laws are fit for the 21st century,” he said.

Emma Nash, associate at the International Family Law Group LLP, said: “The court’s decision is remarkable, particularly bearing in mind that Mrs Owens gave 27 examples of what she perceived to be unreasonable behaviour.

“This clearly highlights the need for reform in this area of the law and is an example of the need for ‘no fault’ divorce to be reconsidered by law makers.”

Katie Lowe, partner at leading law firm JMW Solicitors, said the ruling was one of the most significant family cases decided by the Supreme Court since it took over from the House of Lords in 2009.

“The result highlights the reality that desperately unhappy people can be forced to remain married for up to five extra years if they cannot find sufficiently ’strong’ examples of their spouse’s behaviour and there has been no adultery,” she said, adding: “The case has shone a light on our broken divorce law.”

Ms Owens has already lost two rounds of the legal battle since she petitioned for divorce in 2015 after moving out of their home in Broadway, Worcestershire.

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 in London.

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

Ms Owens’ lawyers said she should not have to prove that Mr Owens’ behaviour has been “unreasonable” – only that she should not “reasonably be expected” to remain with him.

Barrister Philip Marshall QC, who leads Ms Owens’ legal team, told Supreme Court justices that a “modest shift” of focus in interpretation of legislation was required.

But barrister Nigel Dyer QC, who leads her husband’s legal team, disagreed and raised concern about the introduction of divorce “on demand”

 

Published by CityFella

Big city fella, Born and Raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lived in New York (a part time New Yorker) for three years . I have lived in the Sacramento area since 1993. When I first moved here, I hated it. Initially found the city too conservative for my tastes. A great place to raise children however too few options for adults . The city has grown up, there is much to do here. The city suffers from low self esteem in my opinion, locals have few positive words to say about their hometown. visitors and transplants are amazed at what they find here. From, the grand old homes in Alkali Flats, and the huge trees in midtown, there are many surprises in Sacramento. Theater is alive is this area . And finally ,there is a nightlife... In.downtown midtown, for the young and not so young. My Criticism is with local government. There is a shortage of visionaries in city hall. Sacramento has long relied on the state, feds and real estate for revenue. Like many cities in America,Downtown Sacramento was the hub of activity in the area. as the population moved to the suburbs and retail followed. The city has spent millions to revive downtown. Today less than ten thousand people live downtown. No one at city hall could connect the dots. Population-Retail. Business says Sacramento is challenging and many corporations have chosen to set up operations outside the cities limits. There is vision in the burbs. Sacramento has bones, there are many good pieces here, leaders seem unable or unwilling to put those pieces together into. Rant aside, I love it here. From the trees to the rivers. But its the people here that move me. Sacramento is one of the most integrated cities in America. I find I'm welcome everywhere. The spices work in this city of nearly 500,000 and for the most part these spices blend well together. From Ukrainians to Hispanics and a sizable gay community, all the spices seem to work well here. I frequently travel and occasionally I will venture into a city with huge racial borders, where its unsafe to visit after certain hours. I haven't found it here. I cant imagine living in a community where there is one hue or one spice. I love the big trees, Temple Coffee House, the Alhambra Safeway, Zelda's Pizza, Bicyclist in Midtown, The Mother Lode Saloon, Crest Theater, and the Rivers. I could go on and I might. Sacramento is home.

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