16 February 2017

The Court of Appeal has ruled that a "desperately unhappy" marriage is not in itself a ground for divorce.

Tini Owens Petitioned for Divorce last year alleging her husband had behaved unreasonably. Hugh Owens disagreed and said that the couple still had a "few years" to enjoy.

A Judge ruled against Mrs Owens in the Family Court last year saying that her allegations were "of the kind to be expected in marriage" and he refused to grant her a divorce.

At a hearing in the Court of Appeal last week, three Judges, including Sir James Munby, upheld that ruling.

Philip Marshall QC, Mrs Owen's Barrister, told the Court that most divorces are now undefended, and he went on to say, that it is extraordinarily unusual, in modern times, for a Court to dismiss a divorce petition.

Although Mrs Owens had made 27 allegations against her husband, his Barrister, Nigel Dyer QC, said that at the moment, as the Law stands, unhappiness, discontent, and disillusionment are not facts on which a Petitioner may rely in order to prove the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage.

Sir James Munby said that the Judges had examined the legislation laid down by Parliament (full details of the ruling have yet to be published) and told Lawyers: "it is not a ground for divorce if you find yourself in a wretchedly unhappy marriage – people may say it should be".

Divorce Lawyer at Gepp & Sons, Sally Ward, a member of Resolution, said that for a divorce based on unreasonable behaviour to succeed, the Petitioner must set out sufficient examples of the other party's behaviour to satisfy a Judge that no reasonable person could expect them to continue to live with their spouse.

Whilst the Petitioner does not have to set out each and every incident of unreasonable behaviour, the details must amount to more than a couple simply drifting apart or having "irreconcilable differences".

The reality is that in most cases, which are undefended, the Court does not look too closely at the allegations, but in those rare cases where a spouse seeks to defend a petition it is imperative that the allegations of unreasonable behaviour are carefully drafted by an experienced Solicitor, who understands the requirements of the Court.

If you, or anyone you know, needs assistance in this respect please contact the Family Team at Gepp & Sons on 01245 228118 or contact Sally Ward direct on

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