A WIFE who says she is trapped in an "unhappy loveless" marriage with a multi-millionaire is fighting a unique court battle against her husband's refusal to let her divorce him.

Tini Owens, 65, says she is "locked in" to a 37-year "traditional" marriage with "old school" wealthy mushroom farmer Hugh John Owens, 78, who will not let her leave him, despite her affair with another man.

Mr Owens says he has "moved on" and "forgiven" his wife for her "misguided" fling in 2012, and wants them to remain married as they "still have a few years of old age together, to enjoy 30-odd years of shared experiences."

Mrs Owens however insists she feels "unloved, isolated and alone" and says her husband's "continued beratement" of her over the affair, amounts to "unreasonable behaviour" and grounds for divorce.

But, in an extremely unusual move, a divorce judge refused her application for a decree nisi last January, after her husband contested her petition.

Now she is asking the Court of Appeal to overturn that decision, with her QC calling for changes in the law, "In line with current thinking and social norms" to introduce "no-fault" divorces to the UK.

Britain's top family judge Sir James Munby, heard that the couple married in January 1978 but have been living apart since February 2015.

During their time together they built up a £5-million-a-year turnover mushroom growing business, and amassed four "nice houses", including a manor house in Worcestershire which formed their matrimonial home, plus houses in Wales and France, living a "genteel life in genteel company. "

Mrs Owens however "commenced a brief intimate relationship with another man," Ted Olive, in November 2012, Sir James, sitting with Lady Justice Hallett and Lady Justice Macur was told.

The fling came to an end in August 2013 and Mrs Owens moved out of the matrimonial home, Manor House, Main Street, Willersey, Broadway, Worcestershire, shortly before her attempt to get divorced. She is now living in another nearby property jointly owned by the couple.

Judge Robin Tolson QC refused her bid for freedom, after concluding that her husband's behaviour towards her had not been unreasonable, and describing the farmer's attitude as "old school."

Mrs Owens had told the judge that her husband's intolerable conduct included criticising her in front of their housekeeper and making her pick up bits of cardboard in the garden, a row in an airport shop in Cancun following an "otherwise pleasant" two-week holiday, "a silent meal in local pub, and "stinging remarks " fired at her during another meal with a friend.

But the judge, refusing her application, described her allegations against her husband as "exaggerated", "at best flimsy", "minor altercations of a kind to be expected in a marriage" and "an exercise in scraping the barrel."

Judge Tolson also found that Mrs Owens was "more sensitive than most wives" and that she had "exaggerated the context and seriousness of the allegations to a significant degree."

But her counsel, Philip Marshall QC, told the court: "The wife, who is nearly 66, is now a "locked in" wife."

"She cannot get divorced unless the husband changes his mind and agrees.

"The wife's primary case remains that the judge fell into error and was plainly wrong to dismiss her petition on the application of the current law."

Insisting that it was unreasonable to expect Mrs Owens to stay in the marriage, the QC added: "There doesn't have to be violence, or threats of violence, or gambling or drinking or shouting.

"There is cumulative effect of what may be regarded as inconsequential conduct, which may justify a finding that it is unreasonable to expect her to stay with him.

Mr Marshall told the court: "The husband, in his attitude and his manner and the way he did and said things, treated her in a childlike and patronising way and thought that she ought to comply with his will. They ordered their lives in a traditional old fashioned way."

He said it was unfair that a 65-year-old wife must, under current law, separate from her husband, then wait five years, by which time she will be 70, before being allowed a divorce without his consent.

Calling for the law to be changed he said: "It is altogether unclear why England and Wales still obliges a petitioner to prove fault for immediate divorce but will accept simple separation plus consent after two years, and separation alone after five years.

"If proof of fault is no longer required after five years, it is unclear why an arbitrary limit of five years is still kept in place where no fault is alleged or found," he added.

He also criticised the judge's conclusion that the couple did not need to be divorced, because they could afford to live in separate houses.

"The wealthy are not consigned to live in an unhappy marriage, because they have the means to live in separate wings of the house, whereas those of more limited means are more easily divorced. That would lead to an inversion of the intentions of the law," he added.

He also told the court that the wife's Human Rights to respect for her family life and the right to remarry are being violated.

"It is appropriate for the Court of Appeal to consider whether the old authorities should be reviewed in line with current thinking and social norms (and ) what level of fault must be established in order to obtain a divorce (and) whether greater weight should be given to the wife's wishes and feelings when deciding objectively whether it is reasonable to expect her to continue to live with her husband and, more profoundly, whether the old authorities and the requirement to prove fault in order to obtain a divorce are consistent with and proportionate to the wife's Human Rights," he concluded.

Nigel Dyer QC, for Mr Owens, told the court: "The judge was entitled to reject the wife's case that the cumulative impact of the husband's behaviour was unreasonable.

"It might be said that elderly parties to a 40-year marriage might be more robust in their relationship with each other.

"Ultimately whether the divorce law of England and Wales is fault-based or not is a matter for Parliament.

"Reform, as and when appropriate, will be provided by a new statute. Until then the court must apply and not make the law.

"The wife's Human Rights do not extend to providing married couples with a no-fault based divorce law," he concluded.

On the question of what constitutes unreasonable behaviour, Lady Justice Hallett commented: "This is an unhappy marriage.

"What may be regarded as trivial disagreements in a happy marriage could be another piece of salt in the wound in circumstances of an unhappy marriage."

Focusing on the description of the husband by Judge Tolson as "old school" she added: "Old school used to be thought of as domineering and controlling."

Sir James observed: "One interpretation of old school is the old-fashioned idea that it is the husband's role to tell the wife what to do.

"In another interpretation it could be old fashioned politeness, standing up when somebody comes into the room for example.Two very different interpretations."

The judges are expected to reserve their decision on Mrs Owens' appeal and give their ruling at a later date.