Don’t Get It Wrong – What Does Behaviour Mean For Divorce Purposes

On the 25th July 2018, the Supreme Court handed down it’s judgement in the case of OWENS – v- OWENS. So what does behaviour mean in the terms of a divorce, how bad does it have to be?

In January of 2016 Mrs Owens’ (aged 68) petitioned for divorce based on her husband’s (aged 80) behaviour was dismissed by a Judge at the Central Family Court in London, essentially because there was no substance in the draft petition and that it “lacked beef”.

The statement of case in her petition comprised of five paragraphs. Mrs Owens alleged that that Mr Owens prioritised his work over their life at home; that his treatment of her had lacked love or affection; that he had often been moody and argumentative; that he had disparaged her in front of others; and that as a result she had felt unhappy, unappreciated, upset and embarrassed and had over years grown apart from him.

This is typical of many petitions presented to the Court and indeed many statements of case have less “beef” than this. We are often asked to draft petitions on the basis that the parties have “grown apart”. This has never been enough.

Mr Owens does not accept that the marriage has broken down, he largely denied the allegations about his behaviour and that he and his wife had learnt how to “rub along”.

Mrs Owens did later amend her petition and gave 27 individual examples where Mr Owens had been moody and argumentative and had disparaged her in front of others but there were no examples given by her of his behaviour during the first 35 years of the marriage. Some of the examples were described by the Judge as “flimsy” and he said that Mrs Owens was more sensitive than most wives.

Mrs Owens appealed the decision to dismiss her petition but failed in the Court of Appeal. She then appealed the Court of appeal’s decision to the Supreme Court, but again, over two years after the petition was first issued her appeal failed. In giving Judgement the conclusion was that Mrs Owens must remain married to Mr Owens for the time being!

There are an increasing number of individuals dealing with Divorce without having legal representation. Make sure you don’t get it wrong by speaking to one of our experienced family team for advice in relation to the Divorce process.

If you have any enquires about Divorce then contact Ruth Harris at our Shrewsbury office on 01743 248148 or by email at: