A case for ‘no fault’ divorce? Woman trapped in ‘loveless marriage’ after Judges refuse divorce takes her case to the Supreme Court
Tini Owens believes she has been left trapped in a “loveless and desperately unhappy” marriage after senior judges refused to allow her to divorce her husband of 39 years on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour.
It is Mrs Owens’ case that her marriage broke down in the months following her husband learning of her infidelity. Mrs Owen’s believes her grounds for divorce lie with her husband’s unreasonable behaviour upon learning of this affair; and his subsequent “continued beratement” since, which has left her feeling “unloved, isolated, and alone”. Mrs Owens believes that she cannot reasonably be expected to live with Mr Owens in light of such behaviour, and that there is no prospect of reconciliation. Mr Owens contested her application.
The Court of Appeal ruled that her marriage had not, in law, broken down irretrievably, and thus refused to grant a decree nisi of divorce. Judge Robin Tolson refused her divorce petition concluding that her allegations were ‘of the kind to be expected in a marriage’. Judge Tolson’s ruling means that Mrs Owen’s will have to remain married, unless she can prove that the marriage has broken down by proving another of the five grounds for divorce against her husband whether that be; adultery, unreasonable behaviour, two years separation with consent, desertion, or five years separation.
As Mrs Owens’ situation stands currently, without her husband’s consent she will only be eligible for a divorce after five years of separation under Section 1(2)(e) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. Five years, it seems, is a long time to remain married to someone when you do not wish to be.
The President of the Family Division stated ‘Parliament has decreed that it is not a ground for divorce that you find yourself in a wretchedly unhappy marriage, though some people may say it should be’. The Appeal Court ruling could strengthen calls for the introduction of ‘no fault’ divorces. This case perhaps demonstrates the urgent need for reform of divorce law and the introduction of no fault legislation. This type of legislation would allow married couples to divorce without having to prove wrongdoing on either side. Surely this would be a far more civilised and effective way to dissolve a marriage.
Tini Owens has been granted permission to take her case to the highest Court in the United Kingdom, however no date has yet been fixed for the Supreme Court Hearing.