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Trapped in a Loveless Marriage

Posted on March 30, 2017

The landmark ruling in Owens v Owens last week again raises the question of whether the current law on divorce needs to be reviewed and a ‘no-fault’ option be introduced.

In this case, the appellant wife, Mrs Owens, was refused her appeal to be granted a divorce from her husband.  The couple have been married for 39 years, but the husband did not agree that the marriage had irretrievably broken down and instead, contested that the couple still had a “few years” to enjoy.   Mrs Owens was appealing against the decision of HHJ Robin Tolson QC who found, in 2016, that the allegations of behaviour made against Mr Owens were “of the kind to be expected in marriage” and therefore, refused to allow the divorce.  Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, hearing the appeal said, “It is not a ground for divorce if you find yourself in a wretchedly unhappy marriage – people may say it should be”. Mrs Owens intends to seek permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Resolution has responded to the dismissal of Mrs Owens’ appeal, which effectively means that she must remain married to her husband. Speaking immediately following judgment Resolution’s Chair, Nigel Shepherd, said:
“This judgment will obviously come as a disappointment to Mrs Owens, and absolutely underlines the urgent need for no-fault divorce. Nobody should be compelled to remain in a marriage against their will, yet judges’ hands are tied by the current divorce law. Sadly, all too often, couples are forced to play the blame game, and today’s decision demonstrates why this needs to change.

“The simple fact is, this case should not have been necessary. Only by implementing a no-fault divorce system can we ensure such a situation doesn’t happen again.

“No-fault divorce is widely supported. 69% of the public want to remove blame, as do – among others – Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division; Sir Paul Coleridge, chairman of the Marriage Foundation; and Lord Wilson of Culworth, a Supreme Court judge.

“Successive governments have dragged their heels on this issue for too long. Owens v Owens must be the spark that ignites a fundamental change in our divorce law.”

Whether the government will now answer calls to introduce ‘no-fault’ divorce remains to be seen. At Jefferies, we specialise in helping people going through a breakdown in their marriage and can offer fixed fees in many situations. If you would like our help please contact us on

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