Landmark 'no fault' divorce ruling as 'unhappy' wife of 40 years must stay married, court says


A woman has been left “devastated” after failing in her latest legal battle to divorce her husband of 40 years.

Tini Owens lost her Supreme Court fight to divorce husband Hugh Owens, with five justices ruling she must stay married to him.

Mrs Owens, who is in her late 60s, wants a divorce and says her marriage to Mr Owens is loveless and has broken down.

The Supreme Court has ruled that Tini Owens must stay married to Hugh Owens (Picture: PA)

She says he has behaved unreasonably and she should not be expected to stay married.

But Mr Owens, in his 80s, refuses to agree to a divorce and denies Mrs Owens’ allegations about his behaviour, saying if their marriage has broken down it is because she had an affair, or because she is “bored”.

Following the ruling, Mrs Owens’ solicitor Simon Beccle said: “Mrs Owens is devastated by this decision, which means that she cannot move forward with her life and obtain her independence from Mr Owens.”

He said Mrs Owens had hoped the Supreme Court justices would make a decision which would be “forward-thinking and fit with the current social mores”, adding that many people would find their decision “hard to understand”.

Mr and Mrs Owens now live in separate houses next door to each other in Broadway, Worcestershire, with Mrs Owens residing in the detached property on the left and her husband on the right. (SWNS)

Mr and Mrs Owens, from Broadway, Worcestershire, married in 1978 but Mrs Owens petitioned for divorce in 2015 after moving out.

But in 2016 the Family Court ruled she could not divorce and last year she lost an appeal at the Court of Appeal.


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Mrs Owens’ latest attempt failed on Wednesday, sparking calls from specialist lawyers for a change in the law.

Caroline Elliott, divorce lawyer at Shakespeare Martineau, said: “Today’s decision marks a missed opportunity. It had the potential to alter the divorce landscape in England and Wales for the better, but outdated thinking and the courts’ inability to change the law has overcome logic and reason.

Devastated – Mrs Owens is said to be devastated by the ruling, which means she has to stay married to husband Hugh (Picture: PA)

“England and Wales currently lag far behind other countries with their divorce laws and there is a strong mood for reform, which includes the introduction of ‘no fault’ divorces.”

And Alexandra Bishop, Associate in the Family & Divorce law team at Kingsley Napley, said the case had highlighted the urgent need for reform.

She said: “Unfortunately the Justices’ hands were tied over this case – they are there to interpret the law and not to change it.

“Mrs Owens will now need to wait until 2020 for her divorce relying on the ground of 5 years’ separation and Parliament must now take swift action to change the law.

Supreme Court – Mrs Owens lost her fight at the Supreme Court, with five justices ruling she has to stay married to her husband of 40 years (Picture: PA)

“It cannot be right that one party is locked into a loveless marriage against their wish and family lawyers should not have to ‘beef up’ particulars in divorce petitions in order to satisfy the statutory requirements to get divorces off the ground. ”

One of the justices, Lord Wilson, said they had ruled against Mrs Owens “with reluctance” and said the “question for Parliament” was whether the law governing “entitlement to divorce” remained “satisfactory”.