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Refusal of a Divorce Petition Based on Allegation of Husband’s Unreasonable Behaviour

This is a very unusual case heard by the Court of Appeal on Tuesday.  The wife Tini Owens aged 65 had issued a Divorce Petition on the basis of her husband’s unreasonable behaviour.

The wife said her husbands “continued beratement”  including criticising her in front of their housekeeper, rowing with her in an airport shop and  not speaking during a meal amounted to unreasonable behaviour.  The parties have been married for 37 years.  The husband, Hugh Owens, 78, is a multi millionaire mushroom farmer. 
The husband wants to remain married and has stated that “they still have a few years of old age together”.
The wife says she feels unloved, isolated and alone and that her husband’s behaviour amounts to grounds for divorce. 
The parties have lived apart since February 2015.  The wife did have a brief relationship with another man in November 2012.
Judge Robin Tolson QC refused the wife’s Divorce Petition and concluded that the husband’s behaviour had not been unreasonable.  The husband’s attitude was “old school” according to the Judge.  The Judge felt her allegations were “exaggerated” and “at best flimsy” and “minor altercations of a kind to be expected in a marriage”.
This means that the wife cannot get a divorce unless the husband changes his mind and agrees.
If he will not change his mind then the wife will have to wait until they have lived apart for 5 years.  This is the present law relating to divorce in England and Wales.
The Judge also stated that the couple did not need to divorce because they could afford to live in separate houses.
The wife’s Counsel, Philip Marshall QC argued that the wife’s Human Rights are being violated as she is not able to remarry.
The Judges are expected to reserve their decision on the wife’s appeal and give their ruling at a later date.
Defended divorces are unusual.
The present case highlights a difficulty some people find themselves in if they cannot prove unreasonable behaviour and if the other party will not consent to a divorce based on 2 years separation.
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