LIFE BITE: Wife refused divorce as unreasonable behaviour claimed is “expected in a marriage”

apple-150579_1280The wife of a multimillionaire farmer has asked the Court of Appeal to overturn the decision made by a lower Court to refuse her a divorce after the Judge hearing her divorce ruled that her husband’s behaviour was to be “expected in a marriage”.

Tini Owens, 65, married her husband Hugh Owens, 78, in January 1978.  In November 2012, Mrs Owens, had a brief fling with another man, which ended in August 2013.

In her divorce petition, Mrs Owens stated that her husband had behaved unreasonably in his “continued beratement” of her.  She outlined his conduct in her petition,  which included criticising her in front of their housekeeper, arguing with her in an airport shop, not speaking to her during a meal and making her pick up bits of cardboard in the garden.  She submitted in her divorce petition that this behaviour amounted to unreasonable behaviour.

Mr Owens has to date claimed that he had forgiven his wife for her “misguided” fling in 2012, and told the Court that he wanted to remain married to his wife as they “still have a few years of old age together”.

The Judge hearing the divorce, Judge Robin Tolson QC, concluded that Mr Owens’  behaviour towards his wife had not been unreasonable and refused her divorce petition last year.

Judge Tolson QC described the farmer’s attitude as “old school” and stated that Mrs Owens’ allegations against her husband were “exaggerated” and “at best flimsy”.  The Judge further claimed that the conduct described by Mrs Owens were “minor altercations of a kind to be expected in a marriage” and “an exercise in scraping the barrel”.

Judge Tolson also found that Mrs Owens was “more sensitive than most wives” and that she had “exaggerated the context and seriousness of the allegations to a significant degree”.

Mrs Owens claimed that as a result of the Court’s refusal to grant her a divorce, she was effectively “locked in” to her marriage with Mr Owens. She claimed that it was unfair that under current law she would have to wait five years before being allowed a divorce without her husband’s consent.

Mrs Owen’s legal representatives have submitted that it is unreasonable to expect her to stay in the marriage, with her barrister adding: “There doesn’t have to be violence, or threats of violence, or gambling or drinking or shouting. There is cumulative effect of what may be regarded as inconsequential conduct, which may justify a finding that it is unreasonable to expect her to stay with him.”

Mr Owens legal representative told the Court that the initial divorce Judge had been “entitled to reject the wife’s case”. ”

The Court of Appeal judges are expected to reserve their decision on Mrs Owens’ appeal and give their ruling at a later date.

For more information on the grounds for divorce here in Northern Ireland, you can read our earlier blog piece ‘Divorce – What are the Grounds?’ or contact us here.



LIFE BITE: Police bring civil claims against Robbery victim

apple-150579_1280A man who had his car stolen after being held at knifepoint in his home has told the BBC that he feels he has been re-victimised by three personal injury claims made by police officers following the incident.


During a police chase following the armed burglary, Terence Duffin’s car was written off and he has now received civil claims from three police officers, even though he was not in the car.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) have said that the claims are private matters between the individual officers and the insurance companies involved.

The incident occurred at the end of August 2016 when two armed men forced their way into Mr Duffin’s house in Newcastle, County Down.

“They pushed me into the kitchen and proceeded to pull out carving knives,” he said.  “The house was ransacked, items were stolen and they took my car.”

After reporting the matter to the police, Mr Duffin’s car was traced and followed to Belfast.  He said; “It was on the Dunbar Link that the men rammed the police car and it wasn’t until the Seven Mile Straight in Antrim that they were actually apprehended by police who had set up a road block.”

Mr Duffin said he was left traumatised by the theft but that things were made worse when he was notified of the claims by his insurance company.  He said his no-claims bonus was likely to be affected and he feared his car insurance premiums could increase as a result.   The PSNI have acknowledged this may be the case.

Jennifer Young, a Personal Injury lawyer in the firm of Francis Hanna & Co Solicitors, advises that this type of claim was a police officer’s only option if they were injured when on duty by an uninsured vehicle:-

“Although the victim is entirely innocent and someone else has stolen the vehicle, their insurance may go up as a result of a claim under their policy – that is simply the nature of car insurance,”

Ms Young explained why the injured officers would not be able to claim on the PSNI’s insurance policy:-

“The police officers would have to show that their employers have been at fault in some way or that they’ve caused the accident, or that they failed to put in adequate safeguards in place to protect them when they were on duty,”

“In this situation, the accident was caused as a result of the negligent driving of the uninsured driver who has stolen the vehicle and so in that case a claim against the PSNI wouldn’t be likely to get off the ground as there is no negligence on their part.”

If you would like further information on how personal injury claims work, please contact us here or leave your comments below. 

Parental Responsibility

parentBeing a parent brings with it many joys and rewards, though most parents would agree that with these rewards comes a lifetime of responsibility.  

It is the job of both parents of a child to ensure that this responsibility is taken seriously and exercised in the best interests of their children.

What is Parental Responsibility?

Parental Responsibility is a legal term which reflects the rights parents in Northern Ireland have to be involved in making decisions in the best interests of their children.

Parental Responsibility is defined in the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 as “all rights duties powers and responsibilities and authority which by law a parent has in relation to the child and his property”.

In practical terms what does Parental Responsibility mean?

In terms of education, for example, any parent with Parental Responsibility has the right to be involved in choosing their child’s school, to be notified of school events and to be sent copies of the child’s school reports. They may also provide consent with regards to what information is released about their child and having an input in regards to how their child is disciplined.

Parents with Parental Responsibility also have the right to give consent to medical treatment, to determine the child’s religion, to be involved in choosing their child’s name and to agree to any change of name.

In summary, Parental Responsibility provides you, as the child’s parent, with the right to make decisions in the following aspects of your child’s life:

  • providing a home for your child
  • protecting and maintaining your child
  • how your child is disciplined
  • choosing the school in which your child will be educate
  • determining the religious upbringing of your child
  • consenting to medical treatment of your child
  • providing or allowing any confidential information about your child which is requested to be disclosed

Having Parental Responsibility also includes the following: 

  • naming your child and agreeing to any change of your child’s name;
  • applying for a passport for your child;
  • accompanying your child outside of the UK and agreeing to your child’s emigration
  • being responsible for your child’s property, for instance if your child inherits property at an early age;
  • appointing a guardian for your child
Do all mothers have Parental Responsibility?

In Northern Ireland, every mother automatically has Parental Responsibility for their child.

Do all fathers have Parental Responsibility?

Fathers in Northern Ireland are often not aware that they do not necessarily have automatic Parental Responsibility over their child.

A father who is married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth will have automatic Parental Responsibility, as will a father who adopts a child.

How can I acquire Parental Responsibility for my child?

If you are a father who falls outside the above categories, you  can legally acquire Parental Responsibility after the birth of your child in a number of ways, for instance:

  • If your child was born after 1st December 2003, you acquire Parental Responsibility if your name has been put on your child’s birth certificate.
  • If you and the child’s mother enter a Parental Responsibility Agreement
  • If the Court makes a Parental Responsibility Orderin your favour

If the Court makes an order for the child to reside with the father, he will obtain Parental Responsibility by virtue of that order.

A stepfather may also acquire Parental Responsibility by applying to the Court for a Parental Responsibility Order.

What happens to Parental Responsibility if parents separate?

Both parents may continue to exercise Parental Responsibility following separation and are entitled to be involved in decisions about their children’s upbringing.

Sometimes parents with Parental Responsibility can disagree about how these rights are exercised.  If they cannot resolve this disagreement, they may apply to the Court which will decide the issue on the basis of what it considers to be the child’s best interests.

If you would like further information on Parental Responsibility, please feel free to email us here or leave your comments below