A woman who claims she is ‘locked in’ to a loveless marriage, has lost her petition to divorce at the Court of Appeal.
A family law judge initially refused to allow her to divorce her husband of 37 years, branding her “too sensitive.”
Tini Owens had sought to prove that her husband’s alleged ‘unreasonable behaviour’ meant that she could divorce him without his permission. She took her case to the Appeal Court telling judges that she felt "unloved, isolated and alone" and that her husband Hugh Owen’s behaviour – which allegedly includes ‘continued beratement’, criticism in front of their housekeeper, rowing with her in an airport shop and not speaking during a meal – amounted to grounds for divorce.
Last year, family court judge, Robin Tolson QC, refused her divorce petition, ruling that her allegations against her husband were "exaggerated" and "at best flimsy", stating that they were "minor altercations of a kind to be expected in a marriage" and "an exercise in scraping the barrel". He also found that Mrs Owens was "more sensitive than most wives" and that she had "exaggerated the context and seriousness of the allegations to a significant degree".
Philip Marshall QC, acting for Mrs Owens told the court she was now a "locked in" wife. "She cannot get divorced unless the husband changes his mind and agrees," he said: “It is extraordinarily unusual in modern times for a court to dismiss a petition for divorce.”
However the Appeal Court refused to overturn Judge Tolson’s ruling. Lady Justice Hallett, one of three judges who heard Mr and Mrs Owens’ case, explained that the decision not to allow a divorce was reached “with no enthusiasm whatsoever”.
She said: “We cannot ignore the clear words of the statute on the basis we dislike the consequence of applying them. It is for Parliament to decide whether to amend section 1 and to introduce “no fault” divorce on demand; it is not for the judges to usurp their function.”
“I very much regret that our decision will leave the wife in a very unhappy situation. I urge the husband to reconsider his position. On any view, the marriage is over. I can only hope that he will relent and consent to a divorce on the grounds the parties have lived apart for a continuous period of two years, rather than force his wife to wait until five years have elapsed.”
Surjit Verdi, an Associate Solicitor who specialises in Family Law said: “In recent years, it has become almost the norm for divorces to be uncontested, to the point where many couples wrongly presume they have an inalienable right to demand a divorce on request.
“Although this is a highly unusual case, it demonstrates that the law regarding divorce can be complex. Fortunately in most cases – even where a divorce is contested – a good family lawyer can help overcome objections to certain things being claimed in the divorce petition which may have become a sticking point for both parties.
“Whilst not admitting or accepting the allegations made by your spouse, it may nevertheless be possible to accept the marriage has broken down. As no admission is made, the divorce is then able to proceed uncontested which is often less damaging – both emotionally and financially to both parties.”
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