LIFE BITE: A Faulty Divorce – Supreme Court to hear contested ‘unreasonable behaviour’ divorce case today.

apple-150579_1280Five Supreme Court judges will today begin deciding whether to grant Tini Owens a divorce from her husband,  after the lower courts decided she was not entitled to one. 

Tini Owens is the wife of Hugh Owens, a multimillionaire farmer whom she married in January 1978 and separated from 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 divorce 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 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 in the first instance,  concluded that Mr Owens’  behaviour towards his wife had not been unreasonable and refused her divorce petition last year.

The Judge 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”.

The Judge 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 has 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 rejected Ms Owen’s appeal and the matter is now before the highest Court in the land and it is expected that the Supreme Court will deliver judgment on the matter later this year.

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.