Divorce Denied

Relationship breakdown

posted: 30th July 2018

The eagerly awaited judgement in the case of Owens v Owens was handed down on the 25th July 2018 by the Justices in the Supreme Court.

You may recall we outlined the facts of this case in our blog ‘No fault Divorce’ in May.  By way of a brief recap, Mrs Owens wished to divorce her husband based on his unreasonable behaviour, she believed the marriage had irretrievably broken down.

Unfortunately, Mr Owens did not agree with his wife and defended the divorce. He believed the marriage could be saved and his wife would return to the matrimonial home in time.

In the Court of Appeal, the Judges refused to grant Mrs Owens a divorce from her husband stating the law had been appropriately applied by the judge in first instance.

Mrs Owens subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court requesting they allow her to divorce her husband as she had satisfied the necessary criteria. The case was heard in the Supreme Court on the 17th May 2018.

The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed Mrs Owens appeal. She now has to remain married to her husband until 2020 when she can petition the Court for a divorce based on 5 years separation.

Lord Wilson confirmed ‘the law was analysed in relation to behaviour and the focus should not be on whether Mrs Owens can reasonably be expected to live with Mr Owens again. Instead, the Court should address Mr Owens behaviour towards her and then consider it’s particular effect upon her.’

Lord Wilson then goes on to state “what is required of unreasonable behaviour is not actually the Respondent’s (person who has not requested the divorce) behaviour but any expectation that the petitioner (person requesting the divorce) should return to live with him. Therefore it should be bourne in mind that a petition to the Court on the basis of unreasonable behaviour should be concise. It should clearly set out the other parties behaviour and why you should not be expected to return to live with them.

In Mrs Owens case, the Supreme Court discussed their agitation about elements of the Judge at first instances decision including the fact that oral evidence was only heard in respect of four of Mrs Owens 27 allegations raised in her divorce petition against Mr Owens.

The Supreme Court made clear that their judgment was made with reluctance and stated it is now a question for Parliament “whether the law that still governs entitlement to divorce remains satisfactory.” This again raises the question of whether no-fault divorce should be introduced.

If you wish to divorce your spouse or civil partner, PMC Family Law are here to help you. Our expert family team can guide you through the divorce process to ensure it is as seamless as possible. If you want to arrange your free initial consultation today, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0151 375 9968 or email

By: Lindsey Potter - Paralegal