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Tini Owens loses Supreme Court divorce fight! Do we need to reform outdated divorce laws?

View profile for Nameeta Gujral
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Are divorce laws in crisis?

On 25 July 2018, the Supreme Court rules that 68-year-old Tini Owens must stay in a “loveless” marriage.  Resolution, an association of specialist family lawyers believe there is a “divorce crisis” in England and Wales and urgent action is required.  Mrs Owens was denied a divorce as the Court deemed the behaviour of Mr Owens was not sufficiently bad enough that a reasonable person would not expect her to continue to live with him.  In his judgment, Lord Wilson said justice has ruled against Mrs Owens “with reluctance”.  He said the “question for Parliament” was whether the law governing “entitlement to divorce” was “satisfactory”.  He went on to state the current law would allow Mrs Owens to divorce in 2020, when the couple has been separated for 5 years.

Is it time to reform divorce laws?

At present in England and Wales it is only possible for parties to get divorced in the first 2 years after separation on the grounds of adultery or unreasonable behaviour.  After 2 years, if both parties agree a divorce can be obtained on 2 years separation.  If one spouse does not agree then the couple must wait to be separated for at least 5 years before they are able to get divorced.

Tini Owens’ case highlights the vagaries and inadequacies of the law.  The fact that Tini Owens was willing to go to the Supreme Court to seek a divorce truly must show the differences within the marriage are irreconcilable.  However, the Judge’s hands were tied by the divorce laws and has resulted in her being compelled to stay married against her will.  This case highlights the debate that family lawyers have been handling for some time; should there be a “no fault” divorce ground in England and Wales?  It is a very disappointing outcome for Mrs Owens and the family law community whom have been trying to encourage separating couples to behave respectfully to one another and amicably.

Our concerns are that rather than toning down allegations of unreasonable behaviour they will be “beefed up” to ensure that they are accepted by the Court.  Most of us will be of the view that if one partner says that marriage is over, then this 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 in favour of.

If you would like to talk to someone regarding any of the issues raised in this article our team at Martin Tolhurst Solicitors are experienced at dealing with such issues.

To arrange your initial consultation, get in touch with our New Enquiries Team on 01474 546013 or email