News and Events

Hughes Paddison succeed in landmark Divorce case in Supreme Court

Peter Jackson, a Solicitor at Hughes Paddison, represented Hugh Owens in the high profile Divorce case in the Supreme Court of Owens vs Owens recently reported.

The case was the first opportunity for the Supreme Court to review behaviour-based Divorce Petitions brought under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. The outcome has been eagerly awaited by Family Law lawyers up and down the country. The Solicitors Family Law Association, Resolution, were permitted to make written representations to the Court because of the significance of the issues to their members.

Mr Owens had successfully defended his wife's Divorce Petition following a trial at the Central Family Court in 2016 before Judge Tolson QC.

His wife appealed to the Court of Appeal against the dismissal of her Divorce Petition. The Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed her appeal last year. Mrs Owens then chose to make a further appeal to the Supreme Court.

Nigel Dyer QC and Hamish Dunlop were instructed as counsel for Mr Owens at the hearing which took place in May 2018.

After extensive legal argument and a review of the current law the five justices of the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed Mrs Owens appeal.

The appeal case was brought against the background of increasing calls for a reform of the current divorce law. Critics of the current law call for the introduction of a so-called "no fault" divorce process.

The President of the Supreme Court, Lady Hale, commented in her judgment as follows: –

“It is not for us to change the law laid down by Parliament – our role is only to interpret and apply the law that Parliament has given us.”

Peter Jackson commented as follows: –

“In bringing her appeal, Mrs Owens and her representatives were arguing for a novel interpretation of the statutory provision which has had a settled meaning since shortly after the introduction of the current law almost 50 years ago. Whilst there may be good reasons for reform of the current law, the Supreme Court, and the Court of Appeal before it, correctly declined to interfere with the decision of the trial judge to dismiss Mrs Owens Petition for Divorce. The judge decided that Mrs Owens had failed to satisfy him (following a day-long trial) that Mr Owens had behaved in such a way as to entitle Mrs Owens to a divorce under the current law."

For advice about the Divorce process please contact Peter Jackson or any of our solicitors in the Family Department.