The Supreme Court has today given its long awaited judgement in the case of Owens and Owens which concerns defended divorce proceedings.
Mr and Mrs Owens were married in 1978. They had two children.
Mrs Owens had been contemplating divorcing her husband since 2012. However, Mrs Owens did not issue the Divorce proceedings, based on her husbands’ unreasonable behaviour, until May 2015 (having moved out of the family home in February 2015). Mrs Owens was seeking to prove to the Court her marriage had broken down irretrievably (the only ground to obtain a divorce ) on the basis her husband had behaved in such a way she could not reasonably be expected to live with him. The Petition was drafted in anodyne terms. However, Mr Owens defended the divorce on the basis the marriage had largely been successful. The Court gave Mrs Owens permission to expand the allegations of behaviour. Mrs Owens relied on 27 examples of behaviour at the first hearing. However, the Judge was invited to focus on only a few of those examples. The Judge found the marriage had irretrievably broken down. However, the Judge found the 27 examples were flimsy and exaggerated and those relied upon were isolated incidents. The Judge therefore dismissed the Petition.
Mrs Owens appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal dismissed her appeal.
Mrs Owens appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal also. Consequently, Mrs Owens must remain married to Mr Owens for the time being.
The Supreme Court did say it ‘takes no satisfaction when obliged to rule that a marriage which has broken down must nevertheless continue.’ However, the Supreme Court found that the Judge had applied the appropriate law. On that basis, it could not interfere with the decision made by the first Judge to refuse Mrs Owens her divorce.
Given the decision of the Supreme Court, it is essential Divorce Petitions are drafted in such a way to ensure the Judge will grant your Divorce. Specialist legal advice should be obtained to ensure you do not find yourself in the position Mrs Owens now finds herself in. In the circumstances, if you are contemplating issuing Divorce Proceedings, please contact Melanie Wilson on 01245 673767 or email [email protected].
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