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On Friday, Court of Appeal Judges refused a woman's application for divorce from her husband of 40 years on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour. The woman describes feeling trapped in a "loveless and desperately unhappy" marriage.
The extremely unusual ruling by the Court of Appeal has triggered further calls for the introduction of “no fault” divorce. Family law practitioners have also warned that the decision would force separating couples to make more aggressive allegations to justify marital breakdown.
At a hearing in February the husband opposed the application arguing he did not want to get divorced because they still had a "few years" left to enjoy.
Lady Justice Hallett, said she had reached her conclusion “with no enthusiasm whatsoever”, adding: “It is for parliament to decide whether to amend [the law] and to introduce ‘no fault’ divorce on demand; it is not for the judges to usurp their function.” Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division added: “Parliament has decreed that it is not a ground for divorce that you find yourself in a wretchedly unhappy marriage, though some people may say it should be.” Munby added, however, that Mrs Owens would be able to petition for divorce at a time when she could establish continuous five year separation from her husband.
Mrs Owens would be able to petition for divorce at a time when she could establish that she and her husband had been continuously separated for five years, Munby added.
Commenting on the 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."
Whilst cases such as Owens v Owens are unusual, this case again highlights the need for no fault divorce. No fault divorce would arguably would allow for more time and effort to be placed into ensuring ex-spouses are able to move forward as amicably as possible following their marriage rather than furthering fuelling any bitterness between them.
At Ramsdens we are accredited members of Resolution, family law specialists. If you feel you need our help and advice then please do not hesitate to contact one of our expert family lawyers at any of our 12 offices. You can call us free on 08000 147720 to book your free 30 minute consultation.