COURT RULES THAT ‘WRETCHED UNHAPPINESS’ CANNOT BE GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE
Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? But this is the sad reality for Mrs. Tini Owens, whose application for divorce was rejected by the Supreme Court on Friday 24th March 2017
Mrs. Owens is seeking to end her 39 year marriage on the basis of unreasonable behaviour, she made 27 allegations in her divorce petition about the way her husband, Mr. Hugh Owens, treated her, including that he was “insensitive in his manner and tone” and said she was “constantly mistrusted” and felt unloved. Mr. Owens defended the petition, asserting that the troubles the couple faced had been exaggerated by his wife, and that he felt they ‘had a few years left’ together to enjoy.
Mrs. Owens’ petition was refused by a Family Law Judge, and her appeal has also now been rejected, with Judges ruling that her allegations were “of the kind to be expected in marriage” and that Mrs. Owens’ application was “an exercise in scraping the barrel”.
Unreasonable behaviour, the ground upon which Mrs. Owens sought to divorce, is a substantive test, meaning that the behaviour need only be unreasonable to that particular person regardless of how others might feel. The casual disregard the Court appears to have shown Mrs. Owens, deeming her “more sensitive than most wives”, is unlikely to endear the Family Courts to their female patrons, and their dismissal of the substantive element of unreasonable behaviour lends further weight to the argument that Family Courts are lagging behind modern times, especially when it comes to their attitude towards gender roles.
This judgement is also likely to bring the fault based divorce into further disrepute, with many Family Law specialists already believing that the Court’s current requirements to apply for divorce are old fashioned and overbearing. In the 21st Century, should the Courts restrictive processes be allowed to impose upon people’s lives and freedoms in this way? Mrs. Owens no doubt feels very hard done by, forced to remain in a loveless marriage by an institution charged with upholding justice and civil liberties.
If you are concerned about navigating a tricky divorce, or are worried about what this ruling might mean for you, rest assured that here at Thomas Horton, we pride ourselves on staying ahead of the curve, and equipping ourselves to give our clients the best advice and service possible.
Call our Family Department today on 01527 839417 to discuss your options moving forward, and how the knowledge and expertise of 150 years of legal services can benefit you.
Naomi Grace Whitfield