Divorce refusal appeal will go to Supreme Court

By Lenore Rice

The case of a woman who was refused a divorce from her husband by the Court of Appeal last month will now be taken to the Supreme Court, in a case that could provide the courts with an opportunity to review our current fault based divorce system.

Tini Owens had wished to divorce her husband of 39 years, but was denied because the couple had not been separated the requisite 5 years, and she had failed to provide sufficient evidence that the marriage had broken down as a result of adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion. She would have been entitled to divorce her husband if they had lived apart for more than 2 years and he was agreeable to the divorce, but her husband did not consent. See our previous article on the case by clicking here.

In the Court of Appeal ruling Sir James Munby had sympathised with her position, and highlighted the pitfalls of a fault based divorce system, when he said that "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." President of the family division, Sir James Munby, and gone further by saying that the current procedures were "based on hypocrisy and lack of intellectual honesty", and appeared to query the need to establish fault in divorce proceedings.

The issue of whether the current divorce law needs to be reformed is expected to take centre spotlight in the Supreme Court case. There have been increased calls from family law solicitors for the introduction of no-fault divorce in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, and this case may provide the platform required to move the debate further.

If you require legal advice from a divorce solicitor in Northern Ireland contact Wilson Nesbitt in Belfast or Bangor by clicking here.