Supreme court judges ‘reluctantly’ upheld a previous family court ruling that Tini Owens, 69, was unable to divorce husband of 40 years, Hugh, who refuses to split. This particular case has highlighted the need to reform family law in the UK and introduce a 'no-fault' divorce.
The Divorce Process
Current law in England and Wales states that unless there is evidence of adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion, then a divorce will only be granted after spouses have either:
- lived apart for five years, or
- lived apart for two years if both parties consent to the divorce.
Upholding the previous ruling, Supreme Court Judge Lord Wilson said:
“The appeal of Mrs Owens must be dismissed. She must remain married to Mr Owens for the time being.” He noted that Mrs Owens would be eligible for divorce but not until 2020 - when five years had passed since the couple separated.
Lord Wilson added that “Parliament may wish to consider whether to replace a law which denies Mrs Owens any present entitlement to a divorce in the above circumstances.”
Nigel Shepherd, former chair of Resolution – an organisation who intervened on Mrs Owen’s behalf – echoed the judges’ sentiment:
“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.
“In this day and age, it is outrageous that Mrs Owens – or anybody – is forced to remain trapped in a marriage, despite every judge involved in the case acknowledging it has come to an end in all but name.”