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Divorce Procedure

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  • The Attorney General appealed from a decision to pronounce a decree nisi of nullity following a marriage ceremony which the parties had known was of no legal effect. The petitioner and respondent had reached an agreed settlement, so arguments on matters of law were made on behalf of the first intervener, a petitioner in separate nullity proceedings. The issues were whether there could be ceremonies or other acts which do not create a marriage, even a void marriage, within the scope of section 11 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973; and if there could be, whether this had been such a ceremony, currently described as a non-marriage, or whether instead, as Williams J had decided, it had created a void marriage. Sir Terence Etherton MR (the Master of the Rolls), King LJ DBE and Moylan LJ set aside the judge's order as there was, in this case, no ceremony in respect of which a decree of nullity could be granted pursuant to the provisions of section 11. The judge's approach was supported by neither the European Convention on Human Rights nor the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1990. Judgment, 28/05/2020, free
  • The husband alleged fraud and sought to set aside a decree absolute and a financial consent order, both from 2011, in proceedings involving what was described as "frankly shambolic and unacceptable case preparation", leading to the loss of a full court day. Mr Recorder Allen QC found as a fact that the husband had been unaware of the divorce and financial proceedings instigated by the wife. Although Mr Recorder Allen QC had made a finding of fraud, the divorce petition was voidable rather than void, and he declined to set it aside in this case. The financial consent order was set aside and the matter would be listed for a new directions hearing. Judgment, 19/03/2020, free
  • The Attorney General appealed from a decision to pronounce a decree nisi of nullity, following an Islamic marriage ceremony which the parties had known was of no legal effect. The couple had reached an agreed settlement, and so took no part in the appeal. A petitioner in separate nullity proceedings had been given permission to intervene, as were the campaign group Southall Black Sisters. The first issue was whether there are ceremonies or other acts which do not create a marriage, even a void marriage, within the scope of section 11 of the 1973 Act. The court concluded that there could be such ceremonies, and that they would not entitle the parties to a decree of nullity. The second issue was whether the ceremony in this case had been a non-marriage (or as the court preferred, non-qualifying ceremony) or a void marriage. A non-marriage would create no separate legal rights while a decree of nullity with regard to a void marriage would entitle a party to apply for financial remedy orders under the 1973 Act. Sir Terence Etherton MR, King LJ and Moylan LJ concluded that this had been a non-qualifying ceremony. The judge's order was set aside as there had been no ceremony in respect of which a decree of nullity could be granted. Judgment, 17/02/2020, free
  • The Bill makes important changes to the legal process for married couples to obtain a divorce, for civil partners to dissolve their civil partnership, or for obtaining a judicial separation. News, 09/01/2020, free
  • Divorcing couples will no longer have to blame one another for the breakdown of their marriage as a Bill that seeks to reduce family conflict enters Parliament today (7 January 2020). News, 08/01/2020, free

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