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Lawyer calls for 'no-fault' divorce after wife takes fight to Court of Appeal

A specialist lawyer says a 66-year-old woman's high-profile fight to end her marriage highlights the need for the introduction of "no-fault divorce".

Tini Owens has failed to persuade a family court judge to allow her to divorce husband Hugh Owens, 78.

Judge Robin Tolson published a ruling last year in which he refused to grant Mrs Owens' divorce petition.

Now Mrs Owens has asked Court of Appeal judges to overturn that decision.

Three appeal judges - led by Sir James Munby, the most senior family court judge in England and Wales - analysed the case at a hearing in London on Tuesday and are expected to publish a ruling soon.

Specialist divorce lawyer Ayesha Vardag says judges should not compel people to stay married.

"This case highlights the absurdity of fault-based divorce," she said.

"If a party is willing to go to the Court of Appeal to fight for a divorce, spending significant sums on the way, there is clearly no future for the marriage.

"It is beyond archaic that she should have to prove it to a judge. There is no good reason for a court to compel someone to stay married when they clearly do not want to be."

She added: "We must push forward with no-fault divorce and end ridiculous charades like this."

A barrister representing Mrs Owens told the appeal court on Tuesday that the "vast majority" of divorces were undefended in 21st century England.

Philip Marshall QC added: "It is extraordinarily unusual in modern times for a court to dismiss a petition for divorce."

Appeal judges were told the couple had married in 1978 and lived in Broadway, Worcester.

Mr Marshall said Mrs Owens's case was that her husband had behaved unreasonably and that the marriage had irretrievably broken down.

Mr Owens, a retired businessman, disagreed and denied allegations made against him.

He was against a divorce and said they still had a "few years" to enjoy, Mr Marshall told appeal judges.

Judge Tolson had ruled against Mrs Owens after analysing the case at a family court hearing in London.

He had concluded that her allegations were "of the kind to be expected in marriage" and refused to grant a divorce petition.

Mr Marshall said Judge Tolson had failed to make "proper findings of fact" and argued that his ruling should be overturned.

Mrs Owens said Mr Owens was "insensitive" in his "manner and tone" and said she was "constantly mistrusted" and felt unloved.

She said she had been " desperately unhappy" for many years and there was no prospect of reconciliation.

Mr Marshall said judges had to consider the "cumulative effect" of what might be classed as a long list of trivial matters.

Barrister Nigel Dyer QC, who represented Mr Owens, said Mrs Owens had not established that the marriage was irretrievably broken.

He added: "At the moment, as the law stands, unhappiness, discontent, disillusionment are not facts which a petitioner can rely upon as facts which prove irretrievable breakdown."

Judges were told that at one stage Mrs Owens had an affair which lasted less than a year.

They heard that she had contacted solicitors five years ago.

Evidence showed that Mr and Mrs Owens, who have grown-up children, had slept in different rooms for many years.

Judge Tolson had described Mr Owens as "old school" and had said Mrs Owens was "more sensitive than most wives".

Sir James said the job of appeal judges was to "apply the law".

He said they would examine legislation laid down by Parliament and told lawyers: "It is not a ground for divorce if you find yourself in a wretchedly unhappy marriage - people may say it should be."

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