Supreme Court rules woman must stay married against her will

Tini Owens, 68, from Worcestershire, had requested a divorce from her husband Hugh after 40 years of marriage, but her Supreme Court appeal was rejected.

Mr. Owens does not wish to split from his wife, which means divorce cannot be granted except in cases of adultery or unreasonable behaviour, or if they have lived apart for 5 years. Mr. and Mrs. Owens have lived apart since 2015, and therefore Mrs. Owens must now wait until 2020 to be divorced, which her solicitor says is “devastating”, and adds that she simply “cannot move forward with her life”. Although the Supreme Court has applied the law correctly, every judge involved has also acknowledged that the marriage between Mr. and Mrs. Owens effectively ended a long time ago.

Resolution, an organisation of 6,500 family justice professionals, has called on the Government in a press release to urgently reform divorce law in England and Wales. Since the 1996 Family Law Act came into force, a divorce is generally only granted in cases of adultery or unreasonable behaviour. Since then over 1.7 million people have cited these reasons in divorce petitions, but it is thought many would have preferred to simply be granted a divorce without conflict.

Nigel Sheperd, former Chair of Resolution, argues this can drive families into further conflict: “A large number of those [1.7 million people] will have been parents, so one can only wonder what the long-term damage is to separating families across the country, needlessly caused by an outdated divorce process that is no longer fit for purpose.”

Resolution’s Chair Margaret Heathcote says: “Conflict has been proven to have a negative effect on both divorcing couples and their children. Each day the government fails to act creates unnecessary conflict for hundreds more families at a time that is already extremely emotional and traumatising for them… Ministers need to end the blame game and they need to end it now.”

A survey by Resolution shows that 90% of family law professionals agree that current laws “make it harder for them to reduce conflict and confrontation between clients and their ex-partners.”

Baroness Butler-Sloss launched a private member’s bill last week, asking the government to review the current divorce law.

At Foys Solicitors, we are experienced in handling divorce law and know how difficult it can be to get a divorce granted in some cases. Mediation can sometimes help convince an unwilling partner to agree to divorce – or it can solve issues that are causing you to consider a split in the first place. Separation agreements can also be a good temporary solution if you can’t decide whether to legally end your marriage just yet.

For any questions about separations and divorce, contact Foys Solicitors today.

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