A woman who says she is “desperately unhappy” in her marriage has lost the latest round of an “extraordinarily unusual” court fight.
Tini Owens, 66, asked the Court of Appeal to overturn a family court ruling, which said she could not divorce her husband Hugh Owens, 78.
But the appeal judges, led by Sir James Munby, upheld the original ruling.
However, Sir James did point out that some people would feel unhappiness should be grounds for divorce.
The decision means Mrs Owens will have to remain married, although after five years of separation she would be eligible for a divorce even if her husband still objected.
The couple married in 1978 and lived in Broadway, Worcestershire.
The Court of Appeal heard that Mrs Owens’ case was that the marriage had broken down, although Mr Owens disagreed, saying that the couple still had a “few years” to enjoy.
Mrs Owens contended that she had been left in a “wretched predicament”, locked in a “loveless and desperately unhappy” marriage.
She 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.
Opposing a family court ruling made last year by Judge Robin Tolson, who refused to grant a divorce petition on the basis her allegations were “of the kind to be expected in marriage”, she took the case to the Court of Appeal.
But on Friday, Sir James – the most senior family court judge in England and Wales – said: “We cannot interfere with Judge Tolson’s decision, and refuse the wife the decree of divorce she sought.”
He said Judge Tolson had correctly concluded that the marriage had not “in law” irretrievably broken down.
Grounds for divorce in England and Wales:
When you apply for a divorce you must prove your marriage has broken down and give one of the following five reasons:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- 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
However, Sir James added: “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.”
Appeal judges analysed the case at a hearing in London last month and announced their decision to dismiss the appeal in a written ruling.