There have been a flurry of family law cases in the press recently. We set out an overview of some cases which have made headlines.
Tini Owens asked the Court of Appeal to overturn a family court decision which refused to grant her a divorce from her husband, Hugh Owens. Ms Owens told the court that she was desperately unhappy in her marriage to her husband due to, among other things, his insensitive and patronising behaviour towards her. Ms Owens said there was no chance of reconciliation but Mr Owens disagreed. Ms Owens’ reasoning was not considered by the family court to be grounds that a petitioner for divorce could rely upon and the divorce was refused. A ruling from the Court of Appeal has not yet been published.
Katriona MacFarlane and James MacFarlane were embroiled in a divorce battle worth £2.3million. Ms MacFarlane told the Court of Appeal that she had given up her job as a head teacher on the premise that her husband had promised he would look after her. She argued that she should therefore be compensated for her loss of career. Ms MacFarlane also argued that the divorce settlement should be increased to enable her to buy a house similar to the £1m property she occupied with her husband. Judge Moylan rejected her case and said that the decision for Ms MacFarlane to stop working had been a joint one and therefore did not merit additional compensation. Judge Moylan also said that although a couple’s previous standard of living should be taken into consideration, it should not be a determinative factor in deciding how much money to award.
When Denise Brewster’s partner of 10 years, Lenny McMullan died suddenly, she was denied a survivor’s pension. This was because the couple were not married and McMullan had failed to nominate Brewster (as his co-habiting partner) to receive the pension. Brewster appealed this decision and won her case at the Supreme Court. The case is significant as it extends pension benefits automatically to unmarried cohabitees.