Owens v Owens - Goodman Ray

Unreasonable behaviour is one o f the most common grounds for divorce, the Court were recently faced with a petition where it had to determine what amounted to ‘unreasonable behaviour’ in Owens v Owens.

The facts involved Mrs Owens petitioning for divorce in 2015 from her husband of 37 years on the grounds that her marriage had irretrievably broken down. Mr Owens contested the petition, and stated that he had forgiven her infidelity and believed that the pair should stay together. The matter was listed for trial on 15th and 16th January 2016 which concluded with HHJ Tolson refusing to grant the divorce petition. In his judgment he states that Mrs Owens’ had ‘exaggerated’ her allegations and that they were “minor altercations of a kind to be expected in a marriage”. The judgment was upheld by the Court of Appeal, where it was reiterated that Parliament has decreed that an unhappy marriage is not a ground for divorce. Mrs Owens was left in a position where she felt ‘isolated’ and had no option but to remain in a ‘loveless’ marriage.

Permission has now been granted to appeal to the Supreme Court and Resolution will be seeking to intervene in the case. Nigel Shepherd, National Chair of Resolution, has commented

“Mrs Owens’ case highlights why divorce law in the UK needs to change. We need to reduce conflict and support separating couples to resolve matters amicably, rather than forcing them to play a blame game where one or both of them thinks the marriage is over.”

Whether the decision is upheld or overturn, the appeal will undoubtedly reignite arguments for no-fault divorce to be implemented in England and Wales.

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