Owens divorce judgment prompts calls for reform

Owens divorce judgment prompts calls for reform

The case of Owens v Owens, which concluded at the Supreme Court this week, has prompted calls for reforms in no-fault divorce.

It was revealed on Wednesday that judges would not allow Tini Owens, 68, to divorce her husband of 40 years, Hugh Owens.

The court denied the wife’s request to divorce her husband on the grounds that she is unhappy in the marriage.

Instead, she must now wait until at least 2020 to meet one of the four legal arguments for divorce: a minimum of five years’ separation.

Under current divorce law, there is only one legal ground for divorce, which is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. To prove this, a husband or wife must establish one of five facts: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years separation (with consent from the courts) or five years separation (no consent required).

Unfortunately in the case of Owens v Owens, the Supreme Court panel ruled that the wife did not meet the legal criteria for lawful divorce.

The judgment has prompted calls from campaigners to review divorce law as it stands.

Nigel Shepherd of Resolution, the lawyers’ group urging non-confrontational divorces, said: “There is now a divorce crisis in England and Wales, and the Government needs to take urgent action to address it.

“It should not be for any husband or wife to ‘prove’ blame as the law requires many to do – this is archaic, creates needless conflict, and has to change.”

Commenting on the outcome of the case, the Ministry of Justice said: “The current system of divorce creates unnecessary antagonism in an already difficult situation.

“We are already looking closely at possible reforms to the system.”