July 27th, 2018
This month, Mr Justice Baker has given judgment on a case regarding a divorce petition issued by a husband that contained a false address. This judgement ultimately led to the decrees granted being set aside and the divorce petition being dismissed. This case highlights the importance for parties to provide the correct information on their divorce petition and/or any other divorce paperwork.
The case concerned a husband and wife who met in 2002 and commenced cohabitation from 2004. The parties shared their time between the husband’s property in Greece and the wife’s inherited property in Bulgaria.
They married in a Registry Office in Buckinghamshire in 2007. The Husband stated on the Marriage Certificate that he was living at an address in London at “Suite 107”. This was in fact a PO Box address.
In February 2011 the Husband issued divorce proceedings within this jurisdiction. He stated he was habitually resident in England and Wales. On the petition he claimed that he was living with the wife at another address in London at “Suite 102”. Again, this was another PO Box and not a residential address.
The Husband progressed the divorce proceedings and made two more applications for deemed service and for the case to proceed undefended. Both applications contained sworn affidavits. The affidavits stated both parties were still living at “Suite 102”.
Decree Nisi was granted in August 2011 and Decree Absolute in September 2011.
However, it transpired that the parties did not in-fact separate until 2015.
The Wife prepared a witness statement confirming that she did not live at the “Suite 102” address as it was impossible. She also stated that she had not had sight of any of the divorce paperwork. She contacted the Queen’s Proctor who was granted permission to intervene in September 2017 by Baker J. The Queen’s Proctor applied to set aside the decrees.
The Husband argued that he shared his time between his home in Greece, a caravan in the UK and his daughter’s home in London. He stated that he used a mail forwarding service at the “Suite 102” address for his and the Wife’s post. He did not accept that the Wife had not seen any of the paperwork.
Baker J referred to two key cases heard by Sir James Munby Rapsiarda v Colladon  EWFC 35 and Grasso v Naik and Bhatoo  EWHC 2789 (Fam). In the case of Rapsiarda Munby concluded:-
The Husband argued that, although the petition did contain false information, he was habitually resident in England and Wales at the time of issue. On that basis (and given the parties are now separated), the decree did not need to be set aside. He also argued that Munby’s interpretation of the law was incorrect, claiming that a false address was not sufficient to enable a decree to be set aside where a petition is habitually resident within this jurisdiction - it does not amount to material deception.
Baker J disagreed with the Husband’s argument and stated that Munby’s analysis of the law could not be challenged. He concluded that it is essential that particulars on a petition are true, irrespective of habitual residence. Having regard to public policy, the decrees were set aside, and the was petition dismissed.
This case highlights that it is imperative to ensure that, if you are issuing a petition, the information it contains is correct. If you are considering issuing divorce proceedings and feel you may benefit from some assistance, please do give one of our solicitors a call on 01908 262 680.
Having obtained her A Levels from the Royal Latin School in Buckingham, Rebecca Stewart went on to obtain a Legal Secretary Diploma through Pitmans Training and immediately following qualification secured a role at Hawkins Family Law. Following that she discovered her true ambition lay in becoming a Legal Executive specialising in Family Law.In 2012 Rebecca enrolled at Cilex Law School and by 2015 had completed all her level 3 exams, achieving distinctions in 3 of these modules, and is now an Associate Member of Cilex. Rebecca is now working towards her level 6 qualifications and is now able to act as a trainee Legal Executive under the supervision of the Directors of Hawkins Family Law.
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