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: Brangelina No More! Angelina Jolie files for divorce from Brad Pitt

apple-150579_1280Angelina Jolie’s lawyer confirmed yesterday that she has filed for divorce from Brad Pitt.   The couple have been together since 2004 and have six children.  They were married in August 2014.

 

In a statement made by Angelina’s lawyer, we were told that she filed for “dissolution of marriage” on Monday and that the “decision was made for the health of the family”.

Sometimes, for one reason or another, a marriage just doesn’t work – regardless of whether you are rich, famous movie stars or not.  In fact, here in Northern Ireland, currently one in four marriages ends in divorce.

Ending a marriage can be one of the most difficult and stressful times in a person’s life.  Making the decision to end your marriage brings with it many worries and fears about how life will change upon divorce. The last thing that any person going through a divorce wants to worry about is having to navigate a long, complicated legal process to reach the end result.

It may be a relief to know that the legal procedure for divorce here in Northern Ireland is fairly straightforward.    We have put together below some information for you on our blog to explain how this process works.

Click here to read more

IF YOU WOULD LIKE MORE INFORMATION ON THE LEGAL PROCESS OF DIVORCE OR IF YOU HAVE A QUERY REGARDING YOUR OWN DIVORCE, PLEASE DO NOT HESITATE TO CONTACT us at cedgar@fhanna.co.uk OR kconnolly@fhanna.co.uk or LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS CONFIDENTIALLY BELOW.

LIFE BITE: Dragon’s Den star Duncan Bannatyne gave false evidence in Divorce

apple-150579_1280Former Dragon’s Den’s star and entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne has failed in an attempt to prevent a newspaper from reporting allegations that he gave false evidence during his divorce in 2012.  

Last month, the Mail on Sunday claimed that during the course of his divorce proceedings, Mr Bannatyne had misrepresented the terms of a business agreement he had with Graham Armstrong, who ran one of his fitness companies, and had done so in an attempt to reduce the share of assets that his wife could claim in the divorce. The Dragon’s Den star had subsequently expressed “deep regret” and apologised for the way in which the business agreement had been misrepresented.

Mr Bannatyne took legal action to try and stop the newspaper from publishing these allegations, claiming that information about his divorce should be kept private. However the Judge ruled that there was a public interest in exposing Mr Bannatyne’s attempts to mislead a court even though he had apologised for doing so.

This is another in an increasingly long line of media stories involving husbands failing to provide full disclosure of their assets in divorce proceedings.   In all Court proceedings dealing with the division of assets on divorce, each spouse is legally required to provide the Court with full details of their entire financial position. This information is required to ensure that the Court and both parties are aware of the full extent of each other’s financial circumstances at the time a decision is being made as to how the matrimonial assets are to be divided.

If you would like any further information on this issue or any matter concerning divorce or division of matrimonial assets, please feel free to contact us here or leave us a message below.

A Simple Guide to Divorce Procedure in NI

divorce4

Ending a marriage can be one of the most difficult and stressful times in a person’s life.

Making the decision to end your marriage brings with it many worries and fears about how life will change upon divorce. The last thing that any person going through a divorce wants to worry about is having to navigate a long, complicated legal process to reach the end result.
It will be a relief to many that the legal procedure for divorce here in Northern Ireland is fairly straightforward. We have put together below some information for you (minus the legal jargon!) to explain how this process works.

What is the procedure for divorce?

The first step in getting divorce is to issue what is known as a Divorce Petition. This is simply a document which sets out details needed by the Judge to consider your divorce. Importantly, the Petition will detail the grounds on which you are applying for a divorce. If you are the person who has filed for divorce, you will be referred to as the ‘Petitioner’ in these proceedings and your spouse will be referred to as ‘the Respondent’.

The Divorce Petition, once finalised, is then stamped by the Court and served on your spouse who is asked to complete an Acknowledgement of Service Form and lodge this with the Court. This form will confirm that your spouse has received the divorce papers and will detail whether they intend to defend your Petition for divorce.

If your spouse is not challenging the divorce, the case will then be listed for a Decree Nisi hearing.

What is a Decree Nisi hearing?

This is the initial hearing where the Judge will have to determine whether your marriage has irretrievably broken down.   You must attend at Court and give evidence at this hearing.   If the Judge is satisfied that the grounds for divorce have been met, a Decree Nisi is granted – this is an Order stating that are entitled to obtain a Divorce.

Am I divorced after I get my Decree Nisi??

No. The Decree Nisi is simply the first stage of the divorce. In order to be fully legally divorced, you must obtain a Decree Absolute.  You may apply for a Decree Absolute six weeks and one day after the Decree Nisi hearing. Your Solicitor makes the application for a Decree Absolute after this time has passed and you are not required to attend at Court.

What about the family finances and property?

Often, if the division of the family finances and property has not been agreed between you and your spouse, Court Proceedings would then be issued to decide how to divide the finances. These proceedings are called Ancillary Relief proceedings.  In cases where the family finances and property have not been finalised, the Petitioner is generally advised not to apply for the Decree Absolute until after the finances are resolved.  This is because both parties could lose certain rights such as widow pension benefits.

How much will a Divorce cost?

At the time of writing*, the Court costs for a Decree Nisi are £575.  There will be solicitors’ professional costs on top of this.  Most solicitors will give a quote for a divorce in advance of lodging anything with the Court.   Legal Aid may be available depending on your financial circumstances.

If Ancillary Relief proceedings are issued to resolve the financial matters after Decree Nisi, legal costs are likely to be calculated on a time-spent basis.  It is important that you speak with your solicitor about costs before issuing proceedings.

What about the future?

If you had made a Will before getting divorced, it is important to review this after your divorce. Once a divorce has been granted, any part of a Will leaving property to your former spouse will be invalid.

Although a divorce ends your marriage, often you and your former spouse will have to continue to share a relationship with one another for the sake of your children. It is therefore in everyone’s interests to try to ensure that the divorce, if at all possible, is dealt as amicably as possible so that despite your differences at the end of their marriage, you can both move on to the next stage of your lives.
If you would like more information on the legal process of divorce or if you have a query regarding your own divorce, please do not hesitate to contact claire or karen by email or leave your comments confidentially below.

*October 2015

 

 

LIFE BITE: The Sharland & Gohil appeals: Another Bite at the Cherry?

apple-150579_1280There was much press coverage over the Supreme Court’s decision in the Sharland & Gohil appeals last week to allow both Alison Sharland and Varsha Gohil to reopen their divorce settlements after they discovered that their husbands had not made full disclosure of their financial position at the time the Court decided the split of the matrimonial assets.

In all Court proceedings dealing with the division of assets on divorce, each spouse is legally required to provide the other with full  details of their entire financial position. This information is required to ensure that the Court and both parties are aware of the full extent of each other’s financial circumstances at the time a decision is being made as to how the matrimonial assets are to be divided.

It seems only right that one spouse’s fraud in failing to disclose their full financial position at the time of settlement should result in the case being reopened to ensure that a fair outcome is achieved on all of the facts.

The assets in most marriages will not be as substantial as Mrs Sharland’s – she had initially accepted a £10 million settlement from her husband! However, ensuring that each spouse obtains their fair share of all of the assets is no less important in more modest cases.

In reality, the circumstances in which both Mrs Sharland and Mrs Gohil subsequently found out that their former spouses had been lying about their finances are fairly unusual – after the divorces were intially settled, Mr Sharland’s business was floated on the stock market  and Mr Gohil’s full assets were revealed during a money laundering trial.  In most cases, if the extent of each party’s assets is not fully revealed during the divorce case, it is unlikely that this information would be discovered by the other spouse at a later date.

There has been a lot of debate that these appeal decisions may lead to an “opening of the floodgates” with countless divorces being reopened in a bid by one spouse to try and have “another bite at the cherry”.  Others however believe that the decision made by the Court in these appeals may act as a deterrent to others tempted to hide assets out of the Court’s reach.

If you would like any further information on this issue or any matter concerning divorce or division of matrimonial assets, please feel free to contact us here or leave us a message below.