Family Law Blog

Defective Divorces – Mistakes by the court lead to couples entering into bigamous marriages

05 April 2018, by Taylor King Family Law Solicitors

Under The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, s.3 states the following;

‘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 question that follows is how are divorces being granted when the parties have been married less than a clear year?

The President of the family division Sir James Munby has revealed that because of failures by divorce court staff defective divorces have been processed and parties have wrongly been granted a divorce that breached the time limits imposed.

Past cases such as Woolfenden v Woolfenden [1948] and Butler v Butler, confirm that petitions in breach s.3 are invalid and any Decree Nisi or Absolute granted is null and void. As you can imagine this is not ideal for the those who have since re-married, and unknowingly have committed bigamy. Their new marriage is invalid because they were still married.

Court fees will be waived  for those who find themselves with defective divorces. Munby J states that the courts will ‘need to be alert to the potentially devastating impact’ once parties are  informed that there is a ‘problem’ with their divorce.

Munby J has placed his faith and assurances in the courts and their software to prevent such errors from occurring in the future.

If you would like to find out more information about the issues raised above, please contact Susan Taylor. 0161 883 0460 or email