Matrimonial Court Errors
A series of Court blunders have left some parties potentially still married even though they thought they were divorced and were planning a new marriage.
It appears that the problem arose because of Judges devolving down responsibilities to ‘Clerks’. This was all part of a re-organisation to make just 11 divorce centres available to do all of the countries divorce work.
Some parties have put in divorce petitions in breach of the rules and have consequently obtained tainted marriages because the Clerks that were appointed to check the paperwork did not do their job as effectively as the Judges.
The errors included a breach of rules before divorce could even begin, not checking that the parties had been apart for the appropriate time required etc. In fact it is suggested that some individuals that have remarried after their purported divorce might now be technically bigamists.
Sir James Munby who is the most senior divorce Judge in England and Wales has made it clear that he expects apologies to be issued because of the errors of these Clerks.
As a result of these errors, the Government lawyers are being called in to potentially strike out divorces. As far as some other cases were concerned, the damage was already done and some divorces would become null and void.
The re-organisation of the Courts back in 2015 was not welcomed by the profession. Good and well established teams of local Court staff were broken up and re-allocated upon closure of local centres.
Additionally, with the passing of Judge orientated work and responsibility down to Clerks errors were bound to follow. In our personal practice we have found cost decisions made in divorce cases that did not seem logical and that were the result of these ‘Clerks’.
This illustrates firstly the fact that cuts in the Court system were not thought out well and that the new replacement system was not up to standard. It also shows the need for avoiding these problems in the first place by having appropriate legal advice by a legal team that will not allow parties to make such basis errors as infringing time rules and calculations of how long they have been apart.
The consequences of the parties who have obviously issued in person without legal advice is that the Courts have sometimes missed glaring errors because Judges weren’t able to pick up on these points; the work had been farmed out to Clerks who appear to have been unfit for purpose in some cases. The inconvenience, extra potential expense and embarrassment of not having a successful divorce is something to think very carefully upon.
Whilst it’s by no means certain yet as to whether there will be major problems arising from online divorces it does seem to be immediately apparent that the online process could lend itself to less and less personal, Judge directed supervision of your divorce. This is something for all parties to bear in mind.