Wife loses appeal against refusal of divorce on grounds of unhappiness

By Lenore Rice

Tini Owens, aged 66, has lost her appeal against a family court refusal to grant her a decree of divorce from her husband of 39 years.

The appeal court judges upheld the original family court ruling and again refused her leave to divorce her husband. The couple have not been separated the requisite 5 years that would allow Mrs Owens to divorce her husband without his consent. Couples can however divorce if they can establish sufficient grounds for a petition, and must give evidence that the marriage has broken down as a result of one of the following reasons:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • You have lived apart for more than two years and both agree to the divorce
  • You have lived apart for at least five years, even if your husband or wife disagrees

There is no set list of what constitutes unreasonable behaviour but these can include things such as one spouse being financially irresponsible, verbally or physically abusive, threatening physical harm, being unfaithful, or even just a failure to communicate and attempt to resolve issues. However the family court had concluded that she had "exaggerated the context and seriousness of the allegations to a significant degree".

Sir James Munby delivered a slightly more sympathetic ruling, saying, "Parliament has decreed that it is not a ground for divorce that you find yourself in a wretchedly unhappy marriage, though some people may say it should be."

He confirmed that they could not overturn the original decision and Mrs Owens was refused the decree of divorce. She will have to wait until the couple has been separated for 5 years in order to divorce her husband, who refuses to agree that the marriage has broken down.

If you require legal advice from a divorce solicitor in Northern Ireland, contact Wilson Nesbitt in Belfast or Bangor by clicking here.