In April of this year, the President of the Family Division, Sir James, revealed that it had come to his attention that some decrees of divorce had been wrongly obtained.

Arising from that potentially devastating news, inevitably there will be people who think they are legally divorced but in fact are still married. Worse than that, they may be relying on fictitious orders for financial provision or even have remarried bigamously. That second marriage will be invalid.

How did this happen?

Section 3(1) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 prohibits the issue of a divorce petition to the court within 12 months of the date of the marriage (believe it or not, some people are watching the calendar!). Some petitions were actually accepted, processed by the court administration and did proceed to Decree Absolute in breach of this provision. Those petitions and decrees are null, and void, i.e. treated as if they never existed and so anything dependent on them also falls away.

Sir James has issued guidance about what to do if you believe this may apply to you. Firstly, contact a solicitor who will advise further about referring the matter to a judge to resolve the matter. It may require a new divorce petition and the court will generously waive the fee!

For more information

Fortunately, the numbers affected are likely to be quite small. Certainly, our office has not issued any, but if you are concerned, do get in touch with Elizabeth Wyatt. Alternatively, join us on twitter @ACSPrivateCL for our live question and answer session on 18 May at 13:00-14:00.