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.

 

 

 

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: Is Marriage Getting Easier to Get Out Of?

apple-150579_1280This week,  MPs in the House of Commons have been debating on whether couples should be able to apply for an amicable ‘no fault’ divorce.

Under current law, couples who want to divorce have to rely on a fault-based ground of adultery or unreasonable behaviour unless they are prepared to wait two years for a no fault divorce.   On this newly proposed  ground, both parties would sign a declaration stating that the marriage had broken down irretrievably.

It is proposed that this new ground for divorce would reduce the level of animosity following the breakdown of a marriage.   There was opposition to the proposal based on the argument that changing the law would make divorce “easier” and increase the number of divorces. In spite of the opposition,  MPs have passed the first reading of this Bill.

What do you think?  Is divorce getting too easy?
We would love to hear your comments below.  If you need any further information on divorce, please email us here.

The Ashley Madison Effect: 5 Things You Should Know About Divorcing On Adultery in NI

Ashley-madison-main
‘Life is Short. Have an Affair’

This is the slogan that has featured heavily in the media in the past few weeks.

Its aim?? Quite simply to draw people onto a Canadian-based dating website called ‘Ashley Madison’, a website which is marketed towards people who are married or in a committed relationship who wish to commit adultery.

In a technology obsessed world, it now seems that it may actually be possible to start an adulterous relationship from the comfort of your own home. The mind truly boggles!

Though on a serious note, what things should unsuspecting (or indeed suspecting) spouses/civil partners know if they catch their other half on a website such as this?

Here are a few pointers:-

1.  Chatting online is not proof of adultery

Catching your spouse on a dating website is not enough in itself to prove to a Court that they have committed adultery for the purpose of divorce proceedings. Some people may be surprised to discover that in order to rely on adultery you actually need to provide proof to the Court that your spouse has had sexual intercourse with a member of the opposite sex.

Chatting on dating websites may, however, be enough to prove to that your spouse has been behaving unreasonably towards you – for example, it can be used to show a Court that they have been leading the life of a single person or in fact that they have been having an ‘inappropriate relationship’ with another person.

2.  An admission of adultery is often enough for the Court

If upon being confronted, your spouse admits to having committed adultery, this may be enough evidence to file for divorce on the grounds of their adultery.

3. You can ask the Court to make your spouse pay for the divorce

If you successfully file for divorce on the ground of your spouse’s adultery, or even on the ground that their behaviour is unreasonable, you can ask the Court to make an Order for legal costs against your spouse. Essentially you would be claiming that because the marriage breakdown was the fault of your spouse they should pay your legal costs in getting a divorce. Whilst this may not ease the heartache caused, it may relieve the financial burden of ending the relationship.

4. You can name the third party in divorce proceedings if you wish to

If you file for divorce on the ground of your spouse’s adultery, you have the option to name the other party involved in the divorce proceedings. They would then be named on all of the divorce papers and may also be ordered to pay towards the costs of your divorce.

5. Forgiving adultery may mean that you can’t rely on it for divorce

If, after discovering that your spouse committed adultery, you resume married life and continue to live with your spouse for more than six months after discovering the affair, you may not be able to rely on the ground of adultery in the future should things not work out between you. This is because you may be seen to have condoned or forgiven your spouse’s behaviour and therefore you can’t later seek to rely on it.

We all hope that adultery and infidelity will never darken the door of our own relationships and that all we need to worry about is whose turn it is to wash the dishes! However, if you do need information or assistance in relation to any aspect of divorce or relationship breakdown, you can seek confidential advice from an experienced solicitor in this area to guide you through your options.

As always, we appreciate your comments on this topic.  If you do need any further informaiotn, please contact Karen or Claire