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Judgment Sets Aside Divorce Petition With Inaccurate Address

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Nick O’Brien of Coram Chambers recently acted for the petitioner in the reported case Hermens v Hermens [2017] EWHC 3742 (Fam). This was a multi-jurisdictional case involving an application by the Queen’s Proctor to dismiss a divorce petition and set aside a decree of divorce.

In this case, the husband was a Dutch national who asserted that he was habitually resident in England at all material times. The wife was a Bulgarian national. The couple lived together in Greece and Bulgaria, and married in Buckinghamshire. On his divorce petition, however, the husband listed a PO Box as his address in England, rather than a residential domicile. There is a series of complex facts that follow, involving multiple jurisdictions and a question of whether the divorce petition was ever received, and it is worth reading Mr. Justice Baker’s decision to learn more.

In essence, the issue of this case was whether an inaccurate address given by a petitioner on a divorce petition leads the petition to becoming vulnerable to being set aside.

After reviewing the couple’s living situation, Baker J was prepared to assume that the wife had received the divorce petition in Greece, and that the husband was entitled to claim that he was habitually resident in England. Nevertheless, Baker J set aside the decrees on the basis that the address given by the petitioner was a PO Box and that, therefore, there were false statements on the petition. This led the Court to accept jurisdiction and set aside the divorce, noting it would be against public policy to allow such a petition to succeed.

Baker J considered whether the petition could be amended, but refused to set aside the decrees and proceed on this basis. As a result, the petitioner will have to start again.

This is one case in a series of cases brought by the Queen’s Proctor, in which it is seeking to stamp out the practice of using inaccurate addresses in order for one of the party’s to claim that the English family court has jurisdiction in relation to divorce. Other cases include Grasso v Naik and Bhatoo and twenty other petitions [2017] EWHC 2789 (Fam) and Rapisarda v Colladon [2014] EWFC 35.

The full judgment is available here: Hermens v Hermens [2017] EWHC 3742 (Fam).

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