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Supreme Court to deliver judgment in Owens v Owens on 25 July

Court will address interpretation of section 1(2)(b) Matrimonial Causes Act 1973

The Supreme Court will deliver its judgment in the case of Owens v Owens on Wednesday, 25 July.

The case concerns the interpretation of section 1(2)(b) Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.

The parties were married in 1978 and separated in February 2015. The appellant's wife filed a petition for divorce in May 2015 contending that the marriage had irretrievably broken down. The petition was based on the respondent husband's behaviour, which the wife argued meant she could not reasonably be expected to live with him within the meaning of s 1(2)(b) Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, and she gave particulars of incidents, which included occasions where the husband was alleged to have made disparaging or hurtful remarks to her in front of third parties. The husband defended the case and argued at the trial that the examples given of his behaviour were not such as to satisfy the requirements of s 1(2)(b). The judge agreed and dismissed the petition.

The wife's appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal, where the President of the Family Division noted:

"The simple fact, to speak plainly, is that in this respect the law which the judges have to apply and the procedures which they have to follow are based on hypocrisy and lack of intellectual honesty. The simple fact is that we have, and have for many years had, divorce by consent, not merely in accordance with section 1(2)(d) of the 1969 Act but, for those unwilling or unable to wait for two years, by means of a consensual, collusive, manipulation of section 1(2)(b)."

For the Court of Appeal judgment, click here.