Marriage Broken Down. Two Years Apart. But Refused a Divorce.
This week’s newspapers and specialist legal journals are full of the defended Divorce case of Owens v Owens.
Mrs Owens want a Divorce and Mr Owens won’t agree. After two years of living apart, she has failed to get the Divorce. Link here to the Court case, the actual decision.
The case is unusual because whilst Mrs Owens wants a Divorce – and therefore – and because of her actions in moving out of the family home over two years ago, and because she is adamant that she will not live with her husband ever again, the Courts have agreed with her that “the marriage has broken down irretrievably”.
It may come as a surprise to you if you are not a lawyer, that those facts alone are not sufficient in English Law, to entitle Mrs Owens to her divorce.
Because of the present Divorce Law, dating from 1969, she ALSO has to prove at least one out of the five following alternatives –
1. That Mr Owens has committed adultery and she finds it intolerable to continue to live with him. No, He hasn’t’ [NO – she has, by the way, but he hasn’t].
2. That Mr Owens has behaved towards her in such a way that she cannot reasonably be expected to live with him
3. That Mr Owens has deserted her for more than the past two years. [NO – He Hasn’t]
4. That having lived separate for over two years, Mr Owens consents to the Divorce [NO – Mr Owens does not give his consent]
5. That the parties have lived apart for more than five years [NO – They haven’t]
So four out of five options are unavailable to her, leaving the second one as her only chance. Which is, to repeat, “that Mr Owens has behaved towards her in such a way such that she cannot reasonably be expected to live with him”.
Problem is, the worst she can say about him is – Mr Owens is a bit grumpy, perhaps a bit pedantic and set in his ways, a bit autocratic. A bit prone to complain and nag. [Remind you of your Husband at all?]
But they married in 1978 and there is no suggestion that Mr Owens has suddenly changed from Prince Charming in 1978 into a combination of Victor Meldrew and Jack Manningham in 2017.
Basically he seems to be the same person now as he was then. Bit of a difficult chap. Like so many others of us.
And significantly perhaps, she began to see a lot more of him after his retirement, than during the first thirty years or more of the marriage, when he would spend long days at his work, attending to the business of earning money.
As the trial judge noted, each example cited in her divorce petition seems to amount in itself to very little that you would not find in any marriage.
Of course if you love your annoying spouse, that’s one thing. If you stopped loving him years ago, it’s quite another, when he sends you out into the garden to put out the recycling cardboard “properly” or has a fit of the shouty strops in an airport concourse.
The newspapers are decrying the refusal of the Judges to grant the divorce, as evidence of the “stick in the mud” nature of Judges generally, and their refusal to “move with the times”.
But contrary to this and in spite of the newspapers which seem to think that Judges can decide every case as they might think the public would prefer, in fact the Judges’ job is to implement the actual law.
Which is as stated above.
And if, as they found, Mr Owens has not as alleged begun to behave in a manner such that Mrs Owens cannot be reasonably expected to live with him but has in fact merely continued to be the same rather difficult man he was in 1978 when she married him, then alternative No. 2 does not exist either.
So end result of the recent Appeal hearing, – the marriage has broken down, but it cannot be ended for a further three years – when option number five will be available.
What do you think?
On the one hand, Mrs Owens wants a “No fault Divorce” without waiting five years from separation.
On the other hand, taken to its extreme, a Law of “No – fault Divorce any time you like” will allow a spouse to flounce off to the Divorce Courts any time they choose because “I’ve been looked at funny and it’s all over between us”.
But no-fault no-waiting Divorce would seem to be a logical progression in the way in which Divorce law has evolved in England over the past couple of hundred years. And each change in Divorce law, has been made in order to accommodate changes in Society and public opinion.
Public Opinion now might well be that one party to a marriage, if s/he is unhappy, should have the right to end it. Unilaterally, to come into the kitchen and say “By the way, We are divorcing today, so that’s that, sunshine”.
A hundred or so years ago, happiness was probably considered a most unusual bonus in the rare instances of it in marriages, and the lack of it hardly worth comment. But that was then and the past is another Country.
So what do you think?
And what do you think “Marriage” is anyway? What, these days, is it for?
I mean, if you could end it anytime, easy, just like that, then how would it differ from just living together? Should it be any different? Why have gay couples fought so long and hard to be allowed to marry?
You don’t expect answers from me though, do you! It’s complicated, like this song
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