Is your divorce null and void?

Rebecca Silcock, partner in our family team, advises that it has been reported that some divorces have been granted even though they breached time limits imposed by legislation. This means that some divorced people who have re-married may have inadvertently committed bigamy after being wrongly granted a divorce.

To obtain a valid divorce, there are certain time limits that must be complied with.  Divorce petitions cannot be sent to the Court until 12 months after the date of the marriage. Additionally, grounds for a divorce include desertion for a continuous period of at least two years or living apart for a continuous period of at least two years. Calculation of these time frames can be complicated if there are periods of attempted reconciliation.

Divorce petitions which do not comply with these time frames are null and void, and the Court has no power to grant divorce petitions that break these time frames.  The result of this means any Decree Nisi or Decree Absolute that is granted is null and void, and if someone has subsequently re-married the marriage is invalid.

It would appear that there have been some cases which have inadvertently granted divorces when the time frames have not been properly complied with.  Where a time limit has been breached but a Decree has not been granted a Judge can dismiss the petition and write to the parties indicating that a further petition can be issued in due course.  Alternatively, if a Decree has not been granted the petition could be amended and a petition filed on another ground, such as adultery or behaviour.

This serious problem could have a potentially devastating impact on people being informed that there is a problem with their Decree, especially if a person believes they have been validly divorced and has re-married or is due to re-marry very shortly.

Due to the errors in processing, it is crucial that your paperwork is correctly and properly drafted to ensure that it is compliant with time frames.  If you are in any doubt about the validity of your Decree Nisi or Decree Absolute and subsequent re-marriage we are able to advise on these issues. We also provide a fixed fee service for divorce to ensure that a petition is compliant and will be successful.

Please contact Rebecca Silcock for any queries.

Mogers Drewett

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