Court rules woman “must stay married”


26 July 2018

By Farhad Islam

Tini Owens (66) petitioned for divorce from her husband on the grounds that her husband had behaved unreasonable and the 40-year marriage had broken down irretrievably. Unusually, the petition was defended by her husband Hugh (78) and the divorce was denied. Mrs Owens appealed the decision, firstly at the Court of Appeal, and most recently, on 17th May 2018, at the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court rules she ‘must stay married’ against her will

There have been calls for a reform of the divorce law in England and Wales, Supreme Court judges highlighted how troubling Mrs Owens’ appeal is, generating “uneasy feelings,” but made clear that their judgment was bound by the current legal framework. They also urged Parliament to consider changing the law.

“Whilst the Supreme Court has, reluctantly, applied the law correctly, the fact that they have done so confirms there is now a divorce crisis in England and Wales, and the government needs to take urgent action to address it.

“In this day and age, it is outrageous that Mrs Owens – or anybody – is forced to remain trapped in a marriage, despite every judge involved in the case acknowledging it has come to an end in all but name. Today’s judgment underlines just how vital it is that government now urgently reforms the divorce law.

“It should not be for any husband or wife to ‘prove’ blame as the law requires many to do – this is archaic, creates needless conflict, and has to change.”

The judgment comes as Resolution revealed that, since the last unsuccessful attempt to introduce no fault divorce, in the 1996 Family Law Act, more than 1,720,000 people cited adultery or unreasonable behaviour in their divorce petition.

Sally Ward, one of the solicitors in our family department, comments:

Guidelines encourage petitioners to keep the details of unreasonable behaviour in their petition to a minimum so as to avoid any unnecessary acrimony through the divorce process. Most of the time, this is unchallenged by the other spouse and the divorce goes through smoothly Where possible, this will usually be the best way to proceed but the Owens case shows how much of a problem this can be if the divorce is defended.

For expert advice on navigating your way through the divorce process please contact our family team on 012452281184 or for an initial half-hour consultation free of charge. 

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.