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Supreme Court Hears Contested Divorce Case

On 17th May the UK’s Supreme Court heard the case of Owens v Owens, a contested divorce case that has been brought to the Supreme Court on appeal from the Court of Appeal of England and Wales. 

Tini and Hugh Owens were married in 1978 and separated in February 2015. She filed a petition for divorce in May 2015 on the grounds that the marriage had irretrievably broken down. She claimed that her husband’s behaviour had been such that she could not reasonably be expected to live with him within the meaning of s 1(2)(b) Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, and she gave particulars of incidents, which included occasions where the husband was alleged to have made disparaging or hurtful remarks to her in front of third parties.

However, Hugh Owens has defended the case, arguing that the examples given of his behaviour were not such as to satisfy the requirements of s 1(2)(b). The Court of Appeal judge agreed and dismissed the petition.

If Mrs Owens is not able to prove unreasonable behaviour she will have to wait until the couple have been separated for five years before she can obtain a divorce without her husband’s agreement. She therefore appealed the appeal court’s decision to the Supreme Court. In Scotland she would only have to be separated for two years before she could divorce without the agreement of her spouse. 

The case has attracted a lot of attention and had led to many campaigners, including family law body Resolution, renewing their calls for the introduction of no-fault divorce in England and Wales.

“Our current laws can often create unnecessary conflict in divorce, forcing many couples to blame each other when there is no real need – other than a legal requirement – to do so,” commented Nigel Shepherd, immediate past Chair of Resolution. “This conflict is detrimental to the couples themselves, and, crucially, any children they may have.”

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Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

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