26 April, 2018
Senior Divorce Judge, Sir James Munby, has ordered Courts to apologise for the 'devastating impact' errors have had on newly divorced couples who thought they had formally separated following a series of blunders by officials. The series of errors appears to have been made at the 11 divorce centres set up in England and Wales since 2015 where all petitions for divorce are submitted.
Those affected were granted legal break-ups too quickly and in some cases couples submitted Divorce Petitions before they had been married for the minimum period of a year. In others, officials approved divorces before the Applicants had spent enough time apart. Individuals who have remarried are therefore at risk of having committed bigamy.
This news was issued in a technical briefing to the Courts however, it contained no information on the number of people who have been affected - numbers could range from a few to thousands. Sir James Munby said 'Very recently a number of cases have been brought to my attention where Decree Nisi's and Absolutes have been granted notwithstanding that the Petition had been issued within one year of marriage'. He has confirmed that such cases would be null and void and he has called in the Queen's Proctor to tell the Courts to strike the divorces out.
Sir James has stated that Judges should be alert to the potentially devastating impact this information can have on litigants when being informed that there is a problem with their Decree especially with those who have already remarried or are shortly due to do so. He has stressed that communications should be expressed in an appropriately sympathetic and apologetic manner.
Sir James is proposing a solution to fast track these cases which have perhaps inadvertently breached proper procedures however, due to the sheer volume of workloads being dealt with by the family Courts these may not be dealt with as quickly as either he nor the couples affected would like.
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