Wife refused divorce as unreasonable behaviour claimed is expected in a marriage

Karen Connolly

22 February 2017


The wife of a multimillionaire farmer has asked the Court of Appeal to overturn the decision made by a lower Court to refuse her a divorce after the Judge hearing her divorce ruled that her husband's behaviour was to be "expected in a marriage".

Tini Owens, 65, married her husband Hugh Owens, 78, in January 1978.  In November 2012, Mrs Owens, had a brief fling with another man, which ended in August 2013.

In her divorce petition, Mrs Owens stated that her husband had behaved unreasonably in his "continued beratement" of her.  She outlined his conduct in her petition,  which included criticising her in front of their housekeeper, arguing with her in an airport shop, not speaking to her during a meal and making her pick up bits of cardboard in the garden.  She submitted in her divorce petition that this behaviour amounted to unreasonable behaviour. 

Mr Owens has to date claimed that he had forgiven his wife for her "misguided" fling in 2012, and told the Court that he wanted to remain married to his wife as they "still have a few years of old age together".

The Judge hearing the divorce, Judge Robin Tolson QC, concluded that Mr Owens’  behaviour towards his wife had not been unreasonable and refused her divorce petition last year. 

Judge Tolson QC described the farmer's attitude as "old school” and stated that Mrs Owens’ allegations against her husband were "exaggerated" and "at best flimsy".  The Judge further claimed that the conduct described by Mrs Owens were "minor altercations of a kind to be expected in a marriage" and "an exercise in scraping the barrel".

Judge Tolson also found that Mrs Owens was "more sensitive than most wives" and that she had "exaggerated the context and seriousness of the allegations to a significant degree".

Mrs Owens claimed that as a result of the Court’s refusal to grant her a divorce, she was effectively "locked in" to her marriage with Mr Owens. She claimed that it was unfair that under current law she would have to wait five years before being allowed a divorce without her husband’s consent.

Mrs Owen’s legal representatives have submitted that it is unreasonable to expect her to stay in the marriage, with her barrister adding: "There doesn't have to be violence, or threats of violence, or gambling or drinking or shouting. There is cumulative effect of what may be regarded as inconsequential conduct, which may justify a finding that it is unreasonable to expect her to stay with him."

Mr Owens legal representative told the Court that the initial divorce Judge had been "entitled to reject the wife's case". "

The Court of Appeal judges are expected to reserve their decision on Mrs Owens' appeal and give their ruling at a later date.

If you would like any advice or assistance on divorce proceedings in Northern Ireland, please contact us for a free, no obligation discussion by email on kconnolly@fhanna.co.uk or call us on 028 9024 3901.