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Should there be No Fault Divorce?

A woman was recently refused permission to divorce her wealthy husband after he convinced a Judge that their “minor rows were a normal part of married life”.

Tini Owens 65 claimed her 39 year marriage to Huw Owens broke down irretrievably after she had an affair.

Her husband 78, a mushroom farmer from Worcestershire said he had forgiven her in 2012 and High Court Judges explains they would have no choice other than to reject her appeal.

Mrs Owens had tried to persuade Judges in the Court of Appeal that, her husband had been unpleasant to her, had castigated her over the affair and had disparaged her in front of family and friends.

Her lawyers submitted 27 examples of alleged unreasonable behaviour by Mr Owens which included criticising her in front of their housekeeper, sitting in silence during a meal in a pub and indeed, engaging in a row in an airport shop in Mexico. 

The Judges however concluded that Mr Owens was somewhat “old school” that these were minor rows that formed part of any marriage and that Mrs Owens was “more sensitive than most wives”. 

In a landmark ruling, Sir James Munby the most senior Judge for England and Wales, said that Mr Owens actions did not amount to unreasonable behaviour “Parliament has decreed that it is not a ground for divorce that you find yourself in a wretchedly and unhappy marriage, though some people may say it should be”.

The ruling means Mrs Owens must wait for 3 more years before she can qualify for an automatic divorce on the basis of 5 year separation. 

For years, there have been suggestions that there should be “no fault” divorce and indeed, pilot schemes were put into operation to formerly progress this although, the law has never formally been changed.

The Matrimonial Clauses Act 1973, does not allow for “no fault” divorce despite, overwhelming support for it among judges and marriage guidance counsellors and indeed, significant support in both main political parties.

When this case was considered by the Court of Appeal, Sir James Munby also commented that husbands or wives are unfortunately prevented from simply saying they are trapped in a desperately unhappy marriage.

In a scathing judgement, Britain’s most senior family judge said current divorce law was based on “hypocrisy and a lack of intellectual honesty”.

Meanwhile, Appeal Court colleague Lady Justice Hallett said she reached the same conclusion with “no enthusiasm whatsoever” and said it was for politicians to decide whether to change the law and allow divorce when neither husband or wife is at fault.

Meanwhile, Tini Owens, commented after the case “a change in the law, when and if it comes, which is what the Court of Appeal openly recognise should happen, will not come in time unfortunately for me. I am now stuck in a loveless marriage for the next 3 years unless my husband takes the honourable and humane course urged upon him by Lady Hallett.  That seems desperately unfair to me”

If you require advice in relation to whether or not you have grounds to end your marriage then, contact Jane Williams on 02920 388398 or a member of our Family Law team.

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