The ability to leave when one wants to doesn’t degrade the institution of marriageby Stephanie Boland / July 25, 2018 / Leave a comment
It may seem perverse to argue that it ought to be easier to leave an institution into which one, ostensibly, should enter for life. That is, of course, until one learns the exact nature of Britain’s bizarre divorce laws.
Take Tini Owens, for instance, a 66-year-old woman who has been petitioning for a divorce from her husband of 40 years. The predicament is relatively simple: Owens says that she feels locked in a “loveless” marriage. With her children now grown up, she is ready to end the relationship which has brought her long years of unhappiness.
Her husband disagrees. He believes they have years of happiness left together, and does not want a divorce.
A series of lawyers are on her side. The law, for now, is on his.
What the law says
To get a divorce in England or Wales, a couple must fulfil the following criteria: They must have been married for at least a year. They must believe that the marriage has irrevocably broken down. They must have either an instance of adultery (unless they have continued to live together for six months or longer since the adultery was revealed), unreasonable behaviour (which might include physical or verbal abuse, drug use or “refusing to pay for housekeeping”) or desertion (for at least two years in the past 2.5).
A divorce may also be granted if the couple has been separated for two years (as long as both consent to the divorce) or five years (if one party does not).
The result is absurd cases like Owens, in which a clearly unhappy woman comes to court bearing 27 examples of the ways in which she believes her husband has shown unreasonable behaviour, gains the sympathy of several senior judges—Baroness Hale is just one person who has called the laws “unjust”—but cannot, by law, be granted a divorce.
Despite appealing to the Supreme Court, Owens has been told that she cannot be divorce until 2020, when she and her husband will have lived apart for five years.
Dismissing her appeal, Lord Wilson asked if “the law which still governs … divorce remains satisfactory.”
Her solicitor, Simon Beccle, said that the court has missed an opportunity…