A woman who says she is “desperately unhappy” in her 39-year marriage is fighting a legal battle against a court’s refusal to grant her divorce.
Tini Owens, 66, has asked the Court of Appeal to overturn a family court ruling, which said she couldn’t divorce her husband Hugh Owens, 78.
The court heard her case was that the marriage had broken down, but Mr Owens disagreed and said the couple still had a “few years” to enjoy.
A ruling is yet to be published.
Judge Robin Tolson ruled against Mrs Owens in the family court last year, concluding that her allegations were “of the kind to be expected in marriage” and refused to grant a divorce petition.
Three appeal judges, led by Sir James Munby, the most senior family court judge in England and Wales, analysed the case at a hearing in London on Tuesday.
Philip Marshall QC, representing Mrs Owens, told the court that the “vast majority” of divorces were undefended in 21st Century England.
He said: “It is extraordinarily unusual in modern times for a court to dismiss a petition for divorce.”
The court was told the couple had married in 1978 and lived in Broadway, Worcester.
Mr Marshall said Judge Tolson had failed to make “proper findings of fact” and argued that his ruling should be overturned.
Mrs Owens had made 27 allegations about the way Mr Owens treated her, including that he was “insensitive” in his “manner and tone” and said she was “constantly mistrusted” and felt unloved.
“The simple fact is that I have been desperately unhappy in our marriage for many years,” she said in a witness statement.
“There is no prospect of reconciliation.”
Mr Owens, a retired businessman, disagreed and denied allegations made against him.
Mr Marshall said judges had to consider the “cumulative effect” of what might be classed as a long list of trivial matters.
“It was my client’s complaint that her husband treated her in a childlike way,” Mr Marshall told judges.
“And in a way which was effectively that she should agree with his will.”
Barrister Nigel Dyer QC, who represented Mr Owens, said appeal judges should not overturn Judge Tolson’s ruling.
He said: “At the moment, as the law stands, unhappiness, discontent, disillusionment are not facts which a petitioner can rely upon as facts which prove irretrievable breakdown.”
Judges were told that at Mrs Owens had an affair which lasted less than a year and the court heard the couple, who have grown-up children, slept in different rooms.
Sir James said the judges would examine legislation laid down by Parliament and told lawyers: “It is not a ground for divorce if you find yourself in a wretchedly unhappy marriage – people may say it should be.”
Specialist divorce lawyer Ayesha Vardag said judges should not compel people to stay married.
“This case highlights the absurdity of fault-based divorce,” she said.
“If a party is willing to go to the Court of Appeal to fight for a divorce, spending significant sums on the way, there is clearly no future for the marriage.”
She said it was “beyond archaic” that it should have to be proved to a judge.
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