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Supreme Court upholds decision that a couple should remain married

The Supreme Court has today dismissed an appeal by a wife upholding the Court of Appeal’s decision when it stated that a judge was correct to say that the husband’s behaviour was not so unreasonable to end their marriage.

Mrs Owens petitioned for divorce from her husband on the grounds that the 40-year marriage had broken down irretrievably. Unusually, the petition was defended by her husband and the divorce was denied.

Supreme Court judges addressed how troubling Mrs Owens’ appeal is but made clear that their judgment was bound by the current legal framework.

James Grigg, partner in our divorce & family law team, commented: “This judgment highlights the need for both urgent law reform and specialist legal advice for those embarking upon divorce.”

One of the justices Lord Wilson, who handed down the judgment today, said: “There is no denying that the appeal of Mrs Owens generates uneasy feelings… But uneasy feelings are of no consequence in this court, nor indeed in any other appellate court.”

“Parliament may wish to consider whether to replace a law which denies to Mrs Owens any present entitlement to a divorce in the above circumstances.”

Resolution, the family justice body, has called on the government to urgently reform divorce law in England and Wales, in light of today’s ruling.

Nigel Shepherd, Resolution’s past Chair and long-time campaigner for no fault divorce, echoed this call for law makers to take action:

“It should not be for any husband or wife to ‘prove’ blame as the law requires many to do – this is archaic, creates needless conflict, and has to change.”

The full judgment is available on the Supreme Court website. 

If you are considering embarking on separation or divorce please contact any of the lawyers in our family team for expert, specialist legal advice. Call 01242 514000 or email in first instance.