Court admits divorce mistakes have left couples still married

The Court system is in the process of modernisation. Smaller courts have been closed and others earmarked for closure. The Family Court has introduced a system of online divorce with the aim of reducing staffing costs and administration. Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, is pioneering changes to modernise the system, re-allocate routine tasks away from Judges, create new Courts specialising in financial cases and move away from a system which relies on large volumes of written documents and a lot of waiting around at Court.

Most of the changes are welcomed by those working within the system as being well overdue but Court staff have admitted to a series of mistakes in re-allocating divorce work to regional centres and to divorces being dealt with by cheaper legal advisers rather than Judges. The Court doesn’t know how many couples have been affected but Sir James Munby, the most senior divorce Judge, has ordered Courts to apologise for the “devastating impact” the mistakes have had.

The Law states that you cannot divorce until you have been married for a year, but a number of divorces have been granted to those who haven’t been married this long. This means the divorce is invalid and the couple is still married.

The Law also currently states that if you want to divorce on the basis of being separated from your partner without blaming anyone for the breakdown of your marriage, you can do so after 2 years if your spouse agrees, or otherwise 5 years. The Court has admitted to divorcing a number of couples without the relevant period expiring. These divorces are also invalid and the couples are still married.

If these couples remarry, they would technically be guilty of bigamy. These mistakes are most likely to have affected those who have divorced without legal advice from a solicitor.

Sir James Munby has said those affected by the Court’s mistakes must reapply for a divorce but that Courts must have a sympathetic approach to those who have divorced and incurred fees, but are still married.

If you’d like to speak to a member of the Family Law team about any of the issues outlined above, please call 0113 201 4902 or email

Gabbie  Clasper

Written by

Gabbie Clasper

Head of Family Law

Gabbie has over 20 years’ experience in family law. She has expert knowledge in complex issues including financial aspects following divorce; pre and post-nuptial agreements; cases with an international element; and civil partnerships. Gabbie is regularly instructed by clients based across the country and abroad. She...

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