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

Who pays for the cost of a divorce?

24 January 2017, by Taylor King Family Law Solicitors

The Petitioner (the person who issues the divorce petition) irrespective of who was responsible for the breakdown of the marriage, can ask that an order for costs be made against the Respondent.

When receiving a draft/ sealed petition, the Respondent is often surprised that a costs claim is being made against them. Costs claims are very common. These costs will include; the cost of the preparation of the divorce petition, application for decree nisi and application for decree absolute, together with the court fees of £550.

There are various different costs claims that the Petitioner can make and these are as follows:-

  1. A full costs claim (i.e. asking the court to require your spouse to pay all of your costs);
  2. No claim for costs (i.e. accepting that you will pay for all your costs yourself);
  3. No claim costs for provided your spouse does not defend the petition; or
  4. Restricting the claim for costs to a specific figure – this figure could be only the court fee of £550 or half of the total costs of divorce – you are able to choose.

Costs orders are normally made where the grounds for divorce are unreasonable behaviour or adultery.

We normally advise our clients to seek a costs order so that we can negotiate with the other side once the proceedings have been issued. On the other hand if the Petitioner is anxious for the divorce to proceed unopposed, the claim for costs is only sought if the proceedings are undefended. This often encourages the Respondent to return the acknowledgement of service more quickly.

It is important to be aware that the claim for costs is only in relation to divorce proceedings and not financial matters. Each party will be expected to cover their own costs relating to financial issues, disclosure and settlement.

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

How to convert your civil partnership into marriage

03 December 2014, by Taylor King Family Law Solicitors

From 10th December 2014 anyone who has a civil partnership registered in England and Wales will be able to convert their civil partnership into a marriage.

This can be achieved by either having a conversion at the local registry office or local authority office or a conversion by a superintendent registrar at another approved venue, e.g. hotels, stately homes or some religious premises,  accompanied by a ceremony. The civil partners will need proof of ID and proof of the civil partnership.

Both parties must be in attendance at the conversion and, in the presence of each other and the superintendent registrar,  they both must sign a declaration confirming they are in a civil partnership and wish to convert it into a marriage. The registrar will register the conversion on the conversion register and the marriage certificate will be issued.

The cost of the simple conversion will be £45. However for the first year couples who have entered into a civil partnership prior to 29th March 2014 (the date that marriage was available for same sex couples) will be able to covert their civil partnership for free.

Same sex marriage legalised

19 July 2013, by Taylor King Family Law Solicitors

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 has now come into effect. The Act will:

  1. allow same sex couples to marry in civil ceremonies;
  2. allow same sex couples to marry in religious ceremonies, where the religious organisations has ‘opted in’ to conduct such ceremonies and the minister of religion agrees;
  3. protect those religious organisations and their representatives who do not wish to conduct marriages of same sex couples from successful legal challenge;
  4. enable civil partners to convert their partnership to a marriage if they wish;
  5. enable married individuals to change their legal gender without having to end their marriage.

It is expected that the first same sex weddings will take place in the summer of 2014. The arrangements for allowing civil partners to covert their partnership to a marriage will however take longer to implement.

Capacity to Marry

17 February 2013, by Taylor King Family Law Solicitors

In order for a marriage to be valid both parties must give their consent. Failure to give valid consent “whether in consequence of duress, mistake, unsoundness of mind or otherwise” will render the marriage voidable (section 12(c) Matrimonial Causes Act 1973).

In the recent case of Re SK [2013] EWHC 1990 (COP) Bodey J declared that a man in his 50s was not capable of understanding the implications of marriage and his marriage was therefore invalid. He stated that the man “did not have the capacity freely to decide to enter into a marriage”.

The man had resumed a relationship with his childhood sweetheart in 2007 but had suffered a brain injury in 2008 after being hit by a bus. The marriage ceremony took place in 2010. Bodey J acknowledged that the man had a “deceptive social veneer” and the registrar who conducted the ceremony had believed the man understood the situation.

Whilst the man was capable of engaging in everyday conversations he was only able to remember the fact he was married or the identity of his wife for short periods of time.

The woman had subsequently attempted to take the man from the care home in which he was residing to live with her. However, the local authority applied to the courts for his return. Bodey J ruled in favour of the local authority who also sought to invalidate the marriage.