A Court of Appeal ruling appears to agree with the views expressed in Breakthrough’s earlier blog, prompting renewed calls for ‘outdated’ divorce procedure to be looked at. On 24 March 2017, the Court of Appeal acknowledged that a wife who lost her appeal to overturn the Central Family Court’s refusal to grant her a divorce will be left in a ‘very unhappy situation’. This has led to renewed calls for ‘outdated’ divorce law to be reformed. Giving judgment in the case of Tini Owens v Hugh John Owens, the Family Division President Sir James Munby said the court could not interfere with His Honour Judge Tolson QC’s decision to refuse to grant Tini Owens a decree nisi, even though the judge had correctly found that the marriage had broken down. It was said Judge Tolson had ‘directed himself correctly in law’, and that ‘In relation to the facts, and how they were to be evaluated, he was entitled to find as he did and for the reasons he gave. His reasoning, in the judgment of Sir James Munby, displayed no error of law, principle or approach.’ Lady Justice Hallett went on to say she could not find a basis for challenging the Central family Court Judges conclusions, adding, ‘I very much regret that our decision will leave the wife in a very unhappy situation. I urge the husband to reconsider his position. On any view, the marriage is over. I can only hope that he will relent and consent to a divorce on the grounds the parties have lived apart for a continuous period of two years, rather than force his wife to wait until five years have elapsed.’ The case has prompted again widespread calls for divorce law to be reformed urgently. Nigel Shepherd, chair of family group Resolution, has said: ‘Nobody should be compelled to remain in a marriage against their will, yet judges’ hands are tied by the current divorce law. Sadly, all too often, couples are forced to play the blame game, and today’s decision demonstrates why this needs to change. ‘The simple fact is, this case should not have been necessary. Only by implementing a no-fault divorce system can we ensure such a situation doesn’t happen again.’ It will be interesting to see what, if any reforms to the current divorce system transpire.
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