I’m unhappily married: do I have grounds for divorce?

While most marriages go through ups and downs, it isn’t unusual for those who find themselves in a long-term unhappy marriage to want to get a divorce.

But what happens if your spouse refuses to get divorced, and there is no evidence aside from your feeling of dissatisfaction? Here, family law expert Louise Daniel explains where the law lies.

The case

In an ‘extraordinarily unusual’ case, Tini Owens – the 66-year-old wife of millionaire mushroom farmer Hugh Owens – has been refused a divorce.

The pair have been married since 1978 and despite being ‘desperately unhappy’ for years, her husband did not consent to the divorce.

Tini petitioned on the ground of unreasonable behaviour, however was refused the divorce by a family court judge in January 2016, despite citing 27 allegations including him constantly berating her, rowing with her in public, criticising her to other members of the household and refusing to speak to her during a meal.

After taking it to the Court of Appeal, the judge ruled the grounds were ‘too flimsy’, are ‘of the kind to be expected in marriage’ and refused to overturn the decision.

Her husband’s refusal to get divorced means she is locked in an unhappy marriage. While being in an unhappy marriage isn’t currently a ground for divorce, those who find themselves in this situation may think it should be.

So where does this leave those trapped in a marriage with someone they don’t want to be with?

Grounds for divorce

To obtain a divorce in England and Wales, it has to be proven that the marriage has irretrievably broken down in circumstances which fit one of five facts:

  • the other party’s adultery
  • unreasonable behaviour
  • separation after two years, where both parties agree to the divorce
  • separation after five years, where the agreement of the other party is not necessary
  • desertion

Unreasonable behaviour is subjective, but it has to be more than the usual ‘downs’ within a marriage. In the case of Tini and Hugh Owens, the judge ruled that being in a ‘unhappy loveless’ marriage doesn’t amount to unreasonable behaviour.

WHN has a team of family solicitors with experience in this complex area of law who can advise whether your circumstances give you grounds for divorce.

For more information on getting a divorce, or for any other family law advice, contact Louise Daniel on 01706 213 356 or email her at louise.daniel@whnsolicitors.co.uk