There has been much publicity recently around the case of Tini Owens who has been denied the right to divorce her husband of almost 40 years.
The millionaire mushroom farmer’s wife cited her husband Hugh’s unreasonable behaviour, but her divorce petition was refused by a family court judge last year and more recently by the Court of Appeal last week.
I am surprised at this decision as it’s so rare for the court to refuse to allow a divorce. Unreasonable behaviour is so subjective and what constitutes it in one relationship may be completely different in another.
What this case does show is the urgent need for reform of divorce law and the introduction into the UK of a no-fault divorce. This is when a married couple can get divorced without having to prove wrongdoing on either side. The United States, Australia and China all allow no-fault divorce but the UK is lagging behind.
In her divorce petition, Mrs Owens cited intolerable conduct from her husband that included a silent meal in a local pub, making ‘disparaging’ comments about her in front of friends and family along with her husband’s alleged continued beratement over an affair she had.
Mr Owens denied that their marriage had broken down and claims to have moved on and forgiven his wife for the fling, saying they had ‘a good few years left to enjoy’ together.
To obtain the divorce she so desperately wants Mrs Owens must now prove that the marriage has broken down by proving another of the five facts of divorce, and without her husband consent, she must now wait until they have been separated for five years.
Five years is a long time to remain married to someone when you don’t want to be and are leading separate lives. If Mrs Owens doesn’t want to be in the marriage any longer then she should be allowed to end it.
Slater and Gordon Lawyers have argued for the introduction of no-fault divorces before and Resolution, the organisation of family lawyers, has been lobbying parliament on the matte for some time.
Unfortunately for Mrs Owens, the introduction of no-fault divorce would make little difference if her husband did not agree to divorce. However, it would prevent many other couples from having to rake over the reasons why their relationship broke down in the first place, which often makes the split far more difficult and upsetting than it might have been.
Worried your divorce petition will be denied? Read our blog on How to Ensure Your Divorce is Not Refused.
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Rupi Rai is a family law solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.