Saturday, 17 November, 2018

English court rules woman must stay in ‘loveless’ marriage

UK Unhappy marriage not grounds for divorce supreme court rules UK Unhappy marriage not grounds for divorce supreme court rules
Ray Hunter | 27 July, 2018, 21:57

An "unhappy" British woman who wants to divorce her husband of 40 years has lost a Supreme Court appeal.

"Unfortunately for Mrs Owens, the decision means she will be locked into a marriage that is clearly over, until 2020 when she can petition for divorce on the grounds of five years separation". At present, it is not possible for a couple to divorce without blame being apportioned unless they have separated for at least two years.

Critics say English divorce laws need to be overhauled because a person cannot divorce without a spouse's consent unless they can prove adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion.

In May of that year, Tini petitioned for divorce, alleging that her husband had prioritised his work over their home life, his treatment of her lacked love and affection, he was often moody and argumentative, he had disparaged her in front of others, and that she had grown apart from him.

Mrs Owens' lawyer said she was "devastated by this decision, which means that she can not move forward with her life".

90% of family law professionals agree that the current law makes it harder for them to reduce conflict and confrontation; 80% believe that the introduction of no-fault divorce would make it more likely for separated couples to reach an agreement out of court; and 67% say that the current law makes it harder for separated parents to reach an amicable agreement over arrangements for children.

Handing down its highly-awaited judgment in Owens v Owens, the court dismissed Tini Owens's appeal in relation to a lower court's decision to refuse to grant her a decree nisi, even though the judge had correctly found that the marriage had broken down. This led her to feel "unhappy, unappreciated, upset and embarrassed", and after many years, she said that she had "grown apart from him".

This is despite pleas by Mrs Owens that the current state of the law is out of touch with changing social values.

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The Supreme Court justices have upheld earlier rulings by judges in both the Family Court in 2016 and Court of Appeals in 2017.

Mr and Mrs Owens had married in 1978 and lived in Broadway, Worcestershire, judges had heard.

She said he had behaved unreasonably and said she should not reasonably be expected to stay married.

The judge had applied the right legal test: Mrs Owens' allegations were just not strong enough to get a divorce.

Barrister Philip Marshall, for Ms Owens, told Supreme Court justices a "modest shift" of focus in interpretation of legislation was required.

Lady Hale said: "I have found this case very troubling".

She said she had been "reluctantly persuaded" that Tini's appeal should be dismissed.

Hugh and Tini Owens can not divorce, the Supreme Court has ruled. The reality is that the law can only be changed by Parliament - but it doesn't appear that change is coming any time soon.

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