After a long drawn out legal battle, the much-anticipated judgement from the Supreme Court on Tini Owens’ petition for divorce has been given. It states she will have to remain married to Hugh Owens until 2020 when they’ll have been separated for 5 years and she can apply for divorce.
The History of the Case
Mr Hugh and Mrs Tini Owens are parents to two grown up children and have been married for 40 years. After having an affair, Mrs Owens sought advice from solicitors in 2012, however continued to live in the family home.
In 2015, Tini Owens moved out of the house and petitioned for divorce. She said her husband had behaved unreasonably and described her marriage as “broken down” and “loveless”. She accused Mr Owens of prioritising his work over their home life, of often being moody, argumentative and unaffectionate, and stated she had grown apart from him.
Unfortunately for Mrs Owens, Hugh Owens denied the allegations and said he hoped his wife would change her mind and would return to live with him.
Later that year, Tini took her petition to a family court and argued her grounds for divorce using 27 examples. However, the judge dismissed her petition, ruling that her grounds were “flimsy” and “exaggerated”.
Mrs Owens continued with her petition and took it to the Court of Appeal. However, they upheld the initial ruling, stating that she had failed to legally establish how her marriage had irretrievably broken down. Although, one judge stated that she’d come to her judgement with “no enthusiasm whatsoever”.
The Supreme Court was her last chance to be granted a divorce. After analysing the rival legal arguments looking at ‘unreasonable’ behaviour and ‘fault’, the judges unanimously voted against Mrs Owens, rejecting her appeal.
However, one of the judges, Lord Wilson, noted that they voted against Tini with reluctance and that there was a question surrounding whether the law governing grounds for divorce remained satisfactory. He added that Mrs Owens would be able to apply for a divorce in two years’ time, when she will have been separated from Hugh for 5 years.
Another judge, Lady Hale, stated that she found the case very troubling, but it was not up to the judges to change the law.
Why is This a Notable Case?
This case has caused great debate and has sparked a conversation surrounding ‘no fault’ divorce, which already exists in Scotland, the US and Australia. Concern has been raised by many family lawyers that the current laws surrounding gaining a divorce causes unnecessary conflict between separating partners, making the whole process more difficult.
Currently the only reasons for divorce are:
• Unreasonable behaviour
• You’ve lived separately for 2 years or more and both agree to a divorce
• You’ve lived separately for at least 5 years even if your husband or wife contests the divorce
An organisation called Resolution who support over 6,500 family lawyers have been campaigning for the introduction of a no fault divorce. They’ve stated that the judgment from Mrs Owens’ case has proved there is a divorce crisis in England and Wales.
In my professional opinion, the Supreme Court’s decision has proven how archaic the current law surrounding divorce is. As a member of Resolution, we have been advocating for change for a considerable period of time.
The reluctance from some of the Court Judges to rule against Mrs Owens shows there is a growing movement pushing for reform, and the case has sparked great debate. Hopefully, it will make the government seriously consider updating the law to reflect the society of the 21st century.
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