'No-fault divorce' suffers another setback as Supreme Court rejects latest appeal

No-fault divorce suffers another setback as Supreme Court rejects latest appeal

The saga of Tini Owens’ marriage to her husband Hugh continues today following a decision by the Supreme Court not to grant her a divorce.

Mrs Owens, has been seeking to overturn a ruling by the court of appeal that her marriage with her husband Hugh, had not broken down irretrievably despite her having an affair.

Hugh Owens has opposed his wife’s request to dissolve their marriage, denying that he made her feel unloved and regularly disparaged her to others.

The case called into question the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 in England and Wales, which stipulates anyone seeking a divorce must prove their partner is at fault through adultery, desertion or unreasonable behaviour. Alternatively, if both sides agree, they can part after two years of separation, or either party can wait for a five year period of separation to pass. As Mr Owens disputes his wife’s version of events and doesn’t agree to a divorce, their marriage is, ostensibly at a stalemate. 

The court, in handing down its decision, said that Mrs Owens failed 'by a narrow margin, to clear the high hurdle for intervention' into the decisions by the lower courts, before declaring that she must 'remain married to Mr Owens, presumably until 2020', at which point she will be eligible to petition for divorce under the grounds of 'separation for five years'.

Commenting on the ruling, Amanda Rimmer, partner in family law at the national law firm, Stephensons said:

“Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court is a setback for family law in the UK and for the thousands of couples who seek to untie the knot every year.

“Our current laws paint an outdated picture of marriage today and often add significant pain, both emotional and financial, during divorce proceedings. Though Mrs Owens was unsuccessful, today’s ruling underlines the need to reform UK divorce law. Had a ‘no fault’ route been available to Mr and Mrs Owens, as it is in many countries across the world, the marriage might have been allowed to end with greater dignity and without the need for a costly and confrontational legal process.”

Nigel Shepherd from Resolution - the organisation which has been actively campaigning for the introduction of 'no-fault' divorce, said that the existing law was 'archiac'.

"Whilst the Supreme Court has, reluctantly, applied the law correctly, the fact that they have done so confirms there is now a divorce crisis in England and Wales, and the government needs to take urgent action to address it."