Supreme Court Judgement in Owens v Owens – The end of the ‘blame’ game…

Posted on August 07, 2018

In the case of Owens v Owens the Supreme Court decided that the Wife was not entitled to divorce her Husband, on the basis of the allegations of the unreasonable behaviour set out in her divorce petition.

Background to the Owens v Owens case

In May 2015, Mrs Owens issued a divorce petition based on her Husband’s unreasonable behaviour. Mr Owens decided to defend this petition as he was of the view that the marriage had not broken down.

In her petition, Mrs Owens included 27 examples in support of her petition. At the first hearing, the Courts stated that the examples of Mr Owens unreasonable behaviour were “flimsy” and “over-exaggerated” and therefore decided that Mrs Owens had not sufficiently proven that her husband’s behaviour led to the breakdown in their marriage.

As Mrs Owens was not able to progress her divorce proceedings she decided to appeal this decision. The Court of Appeal stated that the Court had applied the law correctly and therefore were also of the view that Ms Owens had not proven her marriage had broken down on the basis of Mr Owens unreasonable behaviour.

The Supreme Court ‘with reluctance’ dismissed the appeal of the Wife, again on the basis that she failed to prove her marriage had broken down. This means that Mr and Mrs Owens have to remain married until 2020.

Impact of the Owens v Owens case

Unfortunately, the decision of the Supreme Court means that the term ‘unreasonable behaviour’ can be widely interpreted as it is not someone’s behaviour that must be unreasonable, but it must be the expectation that the Petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to continue to live with the Respondent.

This case clearly illustrates the fact that the grounds on which people can issue divorce proceedings is in serious need of change and do now need to be reformed in line with societal changes. It is hoped that the increasing pressure on Parliament, will now make them do so but time will only tell if the decision in the Owens case will tip them off! Who knows what the future holds for couples trapped in a ‘loveless marriage?’

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