Supreme Court rules in Owens v Owens 'no fault' marriage

The Supreme Court has today ruled against Mrs Owens in the case of Owens v Owens. The court upheld previous decisions by the original trial judge and the Court of Appeal that Mrs Owens must remain married to her husband until 2020.

A statement on behalf of Shoosmiths private client partner Peter Morris said: "Today's ruling clarifies a number of issues. The term 'unreasonable behaviour' is widely used as legal shorthand in divorce cases but it is incorrect to do so. It is not someone's behaviour which must be unreasonable but the expectation that the other party can continue to live them. The behaviour itself does not have to be the reason the marriage has broken down. Instead it has to be the reason why the petitioner can "no longer reasonably be expected to live with the respondent".

"Unfortunately for Mrs Owens, the decision means she will be locked into a marriage that is clearly over, until 2020 when she can petition for divorce on the grounds of five years separation. Until then, the family court will not be able to make the full range of financial orders. Mrs Owens may have the resources to cope. Many in her position would not.

"What is clear from this case and today's ruling, is that it should be a catalyst for change. The current law dates back to 1973 and has failed to keep pace with societal change. As the court observed, the social norm which has changed most obviously over that time is the recognition that marriage is a partnership of equals. The decision in Owens may well tip the public's expectation in favour of reform."


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