Wife denied divorce as allegations were flimsy and exaggerated

By Lenore Rice

A 65-year-old woman has told the Court of Appeal that she should be allowed to divorce her husband of 37 years after a previous judge ruled that her allegations against him were "exaggerated" and "at best flimsy".

Tini Owens. aged 65 had submitted a petition to leave on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour in order to divorce her husband Hugh Owens, aged 78. They have not been separated the requisite 5 years that the current law requires for someone to divorce their partner without their consent, and so Mrs Owens must establish sufficient grounds for a petition to be granted. She alleged that her husband constantly berated her about an affair that she had in 2012, criticised her in front their housekeeper, and rowed with her publicly.

Judge Tolson had rejected her petition, saying she had "exaggerated the context and seriousness of the allegations to a significant degree", and that the grounds she outlined were "at best flimsy".

Mrs Owens' solicitor said it was unfair that a 65-year-old woman should have to wait 5 years before being able to divorce her husband, and that it was irrelevant that the couple could afford to live in separate houses. He said her right to remarry was being violated. The Court of Appeal will deliver their decision at a later date.

The case highlights the need to establish sufficient grounds for divorce when you are asking for a petition to leave. There is no set list of what constitutes unreasonable behaviour but these can include things such as one spouse being financially irresponsible, verbally or physically abusive, threatening physical harm, being unfaithful, or even just a failure to communicate and attempt to resolve issues.

It should be noted that this only applies when you are seeking to divorce your spouse without their consent. If both spouses are in agreement they can lodge a divorce petition after two years of separation. Where there is not consent then they will either need to have been separated for 5 years or allege unreasonable behaviour, adultery or desertion. In this case Mrs Owens had committed adultery, and not her husband, so if she fails again in her allegations of unreasonable behaviour she will be required to wait until they have been separated for 5 years.

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