After 39 years of marriage, a woman says she’s desperate to get out of her relationship. Unfortunately, a court won’t grant her a divorce, which makes us wonder whether we’re back in the 19th century.
Tini Owens, a 66-year-old Englishwoman, said she’s “desperately unhappy” in her marriage. But Judge Robin Tolson wasn’t impressed, ruling against her in the family court in 2016.
Tolson, who refused to grant the woman a divorce petition, said Owens’ allegations were nothing out of the ordinary and called them the very “kind to be expected in marriage."
But on Tuesday, three appeal judges analyzed the case. Now, Sir James Munby — England’s most senior family court judge — is calling the initial decision to dismiss the divorce petition “extraordinarily unusual.” After all, we live in “modern times.”
Philip Marshall, Owens’ attorney, had made 27 allegations concerning Hugh Owens’ behavior in 2016, claiming the 78-year-old husband “constantly mistrusted” his wife, making her feel unloved.
Arguing Tolson’s ruling should be dismissed, Marshall reminded the court that most 21st century divorces were undefended in England and that judges should consider the “cumulative effect” of the long list of grievances Tini Owens presented as evidence.
In response, Hugh Owens’ lawyer, Barrister Nigel Dyer, suggested that current law does not give petitioners the option of using unhappiness, discontent, or disillusionment as reasons for a divorce, prompting Munby to say judges would examine the legislation. Nevertheless, he told the attorneys, people may say that finding yourself in an unhappy marriage should be enough to serve as grounds for divorce.
During the appeal hearings, judges were told Tini Owens had an affair, which lasted less than a year. The couple has adult children and are currently sleeping in separate bedrooms, but Hugh Owens says they still have "a few years" to enjoy.
As highlighted by divorce attorney Ayesha Vardag, this story is a great example of “the absurdity of fault-based divorce.”
"If a party is willing to go to the Court of Appeal to fight for a divorce, spending significant sums on the way, there is clearly no future for the marriage,” she added.