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Wife's escape from 'loveless marriage' hinges on Court Decision

The divorce case of Tini Owens was heard in the Court of Appeal at the Royal Courts of Justice on Valentines Day 2017.  Last year Mrs Owens failed to persuade Judge Robin Tolson to allow her to get divorced.  Mrs Owens has petitioned for a divorce on the basis of Mr Owens unreasonable behaviour which caused her to be “desperately unhappy”.  Disappointed with the decision, Mrs Owens appealed. 

At present in England and Wales, the Petitioner must show that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and it is essential to establish the existence of one of five factual circumstances (adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years separation with consent of the other spouse or five years separation).

Despite making over 20 allegations in her petition, the judge refused to grant Mrs Owens Decree Nisi.

During the Court of Appeal hearing, Sir James Munby commented “It is not a ground to divorce if you find yourself in a wretchedly unhappy marriage – people may say it should be”.  This suggests that the Court of Appeal judges are likely to dismiss the appeal, leaving Mrs Owens “locked in a loveless marriage”.  Choosing to dismiss a petition is very unusual these days and if the original ruling is upheld, Mrs Owens will have to wait 5 years to be able to divorce without her husbands consent.  This ruling is expected to be published soon. 

In the meantime this case highlights the debate family lawyers have been having for some time; should there be a “no fault” divorce ground in England and Wales? This raises questions such as is there any good reason why a Court should be able to compel someone to stay married when they do not want to be?  Most of us will be of the view that if one partner says a marriage is over, then it is over no matter what the other person thinks. The reality is for the foreseeable future that ending a marriage is not yet a rubber stamping exercise that many are to be in favour of.

If you need advice on divorce, separation or family law related matters such as this, speak to our New Enquiries team to book your initial advice consultation on 01474 546013.