Last Thursday, five Supreme court judges considered whether to let Mrs Owens have her divorce - after lower courts decided that she was not entitled to one.
Under current divorce law in England and Wales, a couple have to prove in court that their marriage has irretrievably broken down.
At least one of five specific reasons must be shown:
- unreasonable behaviour
- desertion after two years
- two years' separation (if both parties agree to the divorce)
- five years' separation (if one party does not agree to the divorce)
Mrs Owens, issued her divorce petition in 2015 on the grounds of her husband's unreasonable behaviour. She cited 27 allegations about her husband's "unreasonable behaviour." The District Judge refused the divorce, saying her allegations were "of the kind to be expected in marriage." The Court of Appeal agreed "in law" that the marriage had not broken down. Her case is now being heard in the Supreme Court.
If the Supreme Court agree that her marriage has not broken down on the grounds of her husband's unreasonable behaviour, she will then have to wait until 2020 to issue a divorce on the grounds of five years separation with consent.
This case is "highly unusual" because in most cases neither party contests the divorce and it is granted.
For many family lawyers and judges, the case, although rare, is an example of why divorce laws in England and Wales are outdated and need to change. Even the UK's most senior judge, Baroness Hale - one of the Supreme Court judges overseeing the Owens case - has repeatedly called for the laws to be overhauled, describing them as "confusing" and "unjust".