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President’s interim guidance: defective divorce petitions/decrees

On 23 April 2018 the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, issued interim guidance in respect of defective divorce petitions/decrees.

The guidance refers to section 3 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 which provides as follows:

"Bar on petitions for divorce within one year of marriage.
(1) No petition for divorce shall be presented to the court before the expiration of the period of one year from the date of the marriage.

(2) Nothing in this section shall prohibit the presentation of a petition based on matters which occurred before the expiration of that period."

The President notes that very recently a number of cases have been brought to the President's attention where decrees nisi and absolute have been granted notwithstanding that:

(i) the petition, in breach of section 3, had been issued within one year of the marriage, or

(ii) although there had been no breach of section 3, the relevant period prior to the presentation of the petition specified in section 1(2)(d) or 1(2)(e) had not elapsed.

In some of these cases it has been necessary to refer the file to the Queen's Proctor.

The interim guidance sets out in detail what (pending the outcome of the Queen's Proctor's further investigations and the issue of further Guidance) practice should be followed in any case in which it is discovered that a decree has been granted notwithstanding a breach of section 3 or non-compliance with section 1(2)(c), 1(2)(d) or 1(2)(e).

For the guidance, click here.