Owens v Owens: Wife forced to stay in an unhappy marriage

Last Wednesday’s ruling in Owens v Owens has seen 5 Supreme Court judges reluctantly find that the wife cannot divorce her husband based on his behaviour.

The Case for Divorce

Hugh and Tini Owens have been married since 1978 - although they have lived apart since 2015.

Mrs Owens’ petition claimed that Mr Owens’ behaviour was such that Mrs Owens could not reasonably be expected to live with him, and gave vague, almost flimsy, examples of that behaviour.

Mr Owens denied the allegations.

The Legal Case

The court must look at the individual allegations made by the petitioner and decide who to believe. It must then assess the effect that such behaviour had on the petitioner, before evaluating whether it was unreasonable for the petitioner to continue to live with the respondent.

Lady Hale specifically stated in her judgment that she found this case to be "very troubling". Lord Wilson stated that "parliament may wish to consider whether to replace" the current law.

Surely Time for a Change?

Family practitioners have been lobbying for years for a 'No Fault' divorce system where no mudslinging is necessary. This case might just prompt that change.

Surely that would be better for both parties and certainly for any young children? Until then, Mrs Owen’s only choice is to wait until they have been separated for 5 years and petition again on that basis.



Mills vs Mills: The Supreme Court Outcome

The Supreme Court has upheld the decision of the First Instance Judge in Mills v Mills by agreeing that the ex-wife should not have her spousal maintenance payments increased after 16 years of being divorced.

You may remember an earlier installment of this tale ... here's how we covered it earlier this year: mills-v-mills-spousal-maintenance

Mrs Mills received a lump sum of £230,000 on divorce as well as spousal maintenance of £1,100 per month for their joint lives or until she remarried or a further order was made.

Many years later, Mrs Mills found herself struggling to meet her outgoings, largely due to mismanaging her finances, incurring significant debts and making a series of unwise property purchases since she divorced Mr Mills in 2002.

Mrs Mills found herself in a position of having to rent a property rather than living in a property she owned mortgage-free.

The Court Judgement

Mr Mills applied to court to cancel the spousal maintenance order and proposed to pay his ex-wife a lump sum of £26,000.

Alternatively he proposed that spousal maintenance only continued for a fixed period of time and at a reduced rate. His ex-wife cross-applied to increase spousal maintenance.

The Judge dismissed both applications so that the original spousal maintenance order was upheld.

Mrs Mills Appeals

However, Mrs Mills appealed to the Court of Appeal and they increased her spousal maintenance payments to £1,441 per month.

And the Final Judgement ...

Mr Mills appealed to the Supreme Court who have now agreed that the maintenance payments should remain as they are – with no increases or decreases.



Civil Partnerships Take A Step Closer To Being For Everyone

Equal rights for all couples: Civil Partnerships may be available to opposite-sex couples

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that civil partnerships should now be available to all couples, even those who are of the opposite sex.

Civil partnerships were introduced in 2008, before same sex couples were allowed to marry. By entering into a civil partnership, the parties are legally recognised as a significant person in each others’ lives and can be treated as next-of-kin, and they can inherit assets on the death of the other.

Since then, same sex couples have also been given the right to marry, so now they have the option of a civil partnership or a marriage, but opposite sex couples only have the option of marriage.

In the case concluded yesterday, Rebecca Steinfeld and her partner Charles Keidan sought a judicial review to confirm that civil partnerships should be made available to heterosexual couples.The Supreme Court has unanimously agreed with them by finding that the Civil Partnership Act 2004 is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Government will now have to consider whether to change the law to make civil partnerships open to all couples. The pressure will be on!



Research shows an increase in domestic abuse during the World Cup

We know the spirit of the nation can be lifted by a sporting event like this summer's World Cup, with neighbours celebrating together, people being more approachable and camaraderie increasing throughout the land. 

However, a study by Lancaster University has shown an increase in domestic abuse incidents during the World Cup, particularly during England matches and especially  when England lose.

Domestic violence? Because of football?

Domestic abuse doesn’t just mean physical violence, it includes anything from verbal abuse to controlling or intimidating behaviour.

No doubt an increase in alcohol consumption combined with high-running emotions all play a part, but no one should have to put up with abuse from a partner.

What can I do if I'm worried?

There are options available for people who need protection. They can apply to the Civil Court for injunctions such as:

Non-Molestation Order: This is an Order which forbids an associated person using violence against the other, or threatening, harassing or pestering the other. Breach of a Non-Molestation Order is a criminal offence, which can result in a fine or imprisonment for up to 5 years, or both.

Occupation Order: This is an Order which regulates the occupation of the whole or part of a dwelling-house. The Court has the power to remove someone from the property or any part of it. The Court also has the power to forbid them from entering the property.

In addition the Court can provide further protection by adding a Power of Arrest to the Occupation Order. If the Court is satisfied that there has been violence or the threat of violence, a Power of Arrest must be attached unless the Court is satisfied in all circumstances of the case that the Applicant will be adequately protected without it.

If the terms of the occupation order are broken, the police have the power to arrest the person in breach and take him to Court. If it is proved the Order was breached, he can be punished by either a fine or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 2 years.

Help from Family Law solicitors

Our family law team can discuss all of the options in the strictest of confidence and telephone appointments are also available.

Call us on 01245 264494 today



What happens if I give up work once I’ve had children?

One week on from the Royal Wedding (fab, wasn’t it?) and Meghan has already attended her first Royal event as Harry’s wife when she accompanied her new husband to a Buckingham Palace garden party on Tuesday.

Scenario One: Royalty and (potential!) Children

Meghan resigned from her acting role in Suits shortly after her engagement to Harry was announced, and no doubt she will be kept very busy with her Royal duties or possibly even the pitter-patter of tiny feet in the next few years.

There should be no worries and division of assets and mortgages in their world. A nanny would probably be available if required. 

Scenario Two: The Real World of Children and Work

But what happens to non-Royal spouses who choose to give up work to raise a family? Do they prejudice themselves if they later divorce?

No. It is well-established law that a stay-at-home parent’s contribution to family life is equal to the other spouse’s financial contributions. How does this work in reality though?

If Mr Smith is going out to work every day, and Mrs Smith stays at home with the children, he cannot argue that he should get more money from the house, just because he’s paid the mortgage.

The courts would recognise that Mrs Smith has saved the family money by not having to pay for expensive nursery fees, and by taking on the majority of the childcare herself without Mr Smith having to reduce his working hours, she affords him the opportunity to advance his career.

The same applies where it is the husband who stays at home as the primary carer for the children and the wife goes back to work.

Of course there might be situations where Mr Smith made significant contributions towards the family finances above and beyond paying the mortgage each month, which may be factored into the financial settlement if possible and appropriate.

If you would like further advice about dealing with the Real World, please contact our family law team who can give accurate and detailed advice on your circumstances.


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