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Woman in 'loveless marriage' fails in divorce court battle

A woman who says her marriage is "loveless and desperately unhappy" has failed to persuade senior judges to let her divorce her husband of nearly 40 years.

Three Court of Appeal judges ruled that Tini Owens had failed to establish that her marriage to retired businessman Hugh Owens had, legally, irretrievably broken down.

One judge said she had reached her conclusion with "no enthusiasm whatsoever" but said Parliament would have to decide whether to introduce "no fault" divorce on demand.

Another said Parliament had "decreed" that being in a "wretchedly unhappy marriage" was not a ground for divorce even if some people might think otherwise.

Specialist lawyers said the ruling would strengthen calls for the introduction of "no fault" divorce.

Mrs Owens had last year failed to persuade a family court judge to allow her to divorce Mr Owens.

Judge Robin Tolson had refused refused to grant Mrs Owens' divorce petition.

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

Three appeal judges - Sir James Munby, the most senior family court judge in England and Wales, Lady Justice Hallett and Lady Justice Macur - analysed the case at a hearing in London on Valentine's Day.

They dismissed Mrs Owens' appeal in a ruling published on Friday.

Appeal judges were told that Mrs Owens, 66, and Mr Owens, 78, had married in 1978 and lived in Broadway, Worcestershire.

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

Philip Marshall QC said it was "extraordinarily unusual in modern times" for a judge to dismiss a divorce petition.

Mrs Owens said her husband had behaved unreasonably and argued that the marriage had broken down.

Mr Owens disagreed and denied allegations made against him.

He was against a divorce and said they still had a ''few years'' to enjoy.

"We cannot interfere with Judge Tolson's decision and refuse the wife the decree of divorce she sought," said Sir James, who is President of the Family Division of the High Court, in the appeal court ruling.

"Mr Marshall complains that the effect of Judge Tolson's judgment is to leave the wife in a wretched predicament, feeling, as she put it in her witness statement, unloved, isolated and alone, and locked into a loveless and desperately unhappy marriage which, as the judge correctly found, has, in fact if not in law, irretrievably broken down."

He added: "Parliament has decreed that it is not a ground for divorce that you find yourself in a wretchedly unhappy marriage, though some people may say it should be."

Lady Justice Hallett said she had reached the same conclusions "with no enthusiasm whatsoever" and added: "It is for Parliament to decide whether to amend (the law) and to introduce 'no fault' divorce on demand; it is not for the judges to usurp their function."

Sir James indicated that Mrs Owens would be able to petition for divorce at a time when she could establish that she and her husband had been continuously separated for five years.

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