In a Judgement delivered on the 25th July 2018, the Supreme Court has dismissed the appeal of a wife, Mrs Owens, seeking to divorce her husband of 39 years, Mr Owens for his unreasonable behaviour. Mrs Owens will now need to wait until 2020, at which point the parties will have been separated for 5 years, prior to be granted a divorce.

Mr and Mrs Owens married in 1978 and separated in 2015. Mrs Owens wanted a divorce, on the basis that the marriage had irretrievably broken down. Mrs Owens petitioned for a divorce on the basis on Mr Owen’s “unreasonable behaviour” in support of the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

Mrs Owens claimed that she could no longer be expected to live with Mr Owens within the meaning of Section 1 (2) b Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and made 27 allegations of Mr Owen’s unreasonable behaviour.

Mr Owen’s decided to defend the petition stating that he had not behaved in the way that Mrs Owen’s alleged, that the marriage had not broken down irretrievably and that he wanted to continue living with Mrs Owens.

In a Family Court ruling last year, the Court refused to grant a divorce on the basis of the allegations that Mrs Owens had made.   The Judge (His Honour Judge Robin Toulson QC) upon hearing the party’s evidence concluded that while Mrs Owens cannot go on living with her husband and Mr Owens was “deluding himself” if he thought otherwise, he found that Mrs Owens had failed to establish that it was Mr Owens behaviour which caused the marriage to break down and that the allegations were “minor altercations of the kind to be expected in a marriage”.

Mrs Owens appealed against this decision to the Court of Appeal but her appeal was also dismissed.

Mrs Owens then appealed to the Supreme Court who on the 25th July 2018 handed down their judgement and the Supreme Court has unanimously dismissed Mrs Owen’s appeal.

The result of the Supreme Court’s decision is that Mrs Owens will be unable to divorce Mr Owens until 5 years have elapsed since the beginning of their separation. She will remain married until that point when, in 2020, she will be able to rely on the fact that they have been separated for 5 years in support of the fact that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

Until there are divorce proceedings, the Court will not be able to make the full range of financial Orders.

Here at Dodds Solicitors LLP we have a specialist team of family solicitors who advise people throughout divorce proceedings. Whilst contested divorce proceedings are rare, the law requires urgent reform to ensure that in similar circumstances to Mrs Owens the parties do not have to remain married with potentially years of unhappiness as a result of the current legislation.

There is significant support for a “no fault divorce” which means that when one party petitions for divorce they do not have to prove any fault on behalf of their husband/wife. Following the case of Owens –v- Owens a bill has been launched which requires the government to review the current law on divorce and to consider a proposal for a system of no fault divorce.  The current law dates back to 1973 and does not reflect the changes in society.

Dodds Solicitors LLP are experts in Family Law and if you need advice in relation to divorce please do not hesitate to contact our specialist solicitors about divorce proceedings or other family matters.

To speak to a family solicitor at Dodds Solicitors LLP please call us on 0116 262 8596 or email us at

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