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The legacy of Owens v Owens

Owens reminds us that our present divorce law is out of date – and even the proposed reforms would not go far enough in some cases, writes Julian Hawkhead

2 May 2017

One of the most talked about family cases in recent months has undoubtedly been that of Tini and Hugh Owens. The facts seemed straightforward: the couple had been married for 37 years but in 2015 she moved out and filed for divorce, claiming their relationship had become ‘loveless’ and argumentative.

So far, so ordinary. But things took a turn for the unusual when her husband decided to defend the divorce, arguing that, despite her desire to end the marriage, it had not in fact broken down irretrievably. The judge at first instance surprised many by backing the husband, describing the allegations in Mrs Owens’ divorce petition as ‘flimsy’ and ‘minor altercations of a kind to be expected in a marriage’.

At the subsequent Court of Appeal hearing, Mrs Owens’ barrister rightly described the judge&rsqu...

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