So with everyone asking how a court can force Mrs Owens to remain married until 2020, what does it all mean?
In the UK you still have to prove your marriage has irretrievably broken down. One of 5 grounds can be used. In most cases now everything is agreed before the papers are filed with the court so the divorce process goes ahead without any further investigation of the facts. However, if the papers aren’t agreed and just filed and the other person objects to what is in the papers the facts have to be investigated and proved before a Judge before the divorce can be granted. That is what happened in the Owens case. Mr Owens objected and Mrs Owens couldn’t prove her case. The Supreme Court could have sent the case back for a rehearing but neither party wanted to do that so Mrs Owens now has to wait for one of the other grounds of divorce to apply, 5 years separation. In 2020 Mrs Owens will be able to get her divorce because 5 years separation doesn’t require the other person’s consent.