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Amy Scollan discusses solving unusual family law cases

  • June 02, 2020
  • By Amy Scollan, Partner

Solving unusual family law cases

The family team at Hunters Law LLP are specialists in resolving divorce, finance and children disputes both in the court process and in alternative dispute resolution forums such as mediation, round-table negotiations and arbitration.

Our family team also excels at finding solutions in the most unusual situations, as demonstrated by the recent case of X v Y [2020] EWHC 1116 (Fam), in which partner Amy Scollan represented a client who was worried that his 1997 divorce was invalid because it referred to the wrong marriage ceremony.

The facts:

  • Our client, Mr X, secretly married his ex-wife in Madrid in 1993. They then had a second marriage ceremony in the presence of their friends and family in London in 1994;
  • The marriage broke down in 1995 and the parties divorced in London in 1997. Mr X was represented by a different firm at that time, and the divorce documentation erroneously referred to the London marriage ceremony – the second ceremony – and not the first marriage ceremony which took place in Madrid;
  • When our client tried to register his divorce in Spain, approximately 20 years later, the error was noticed.

The reference to the second marriage ceremony in the divorce documentation was a problem because parties cannot legally marry each other once they are already married, meaning the second ceremony had no legal effect. It was the first marriage ceremony in Madrid which brought the marriage into being, and which needed to be dissolved by divorce.

As the divorce documentation referred to the second marriage ceremony, which was not legally significant, was our client’s 1997 divorce invalid, meaning that he was still married?

We identified and directed the court’s attention to a 1955 decision of the Court of Appeal, Thynne (Marchioness of Bath) v Thynne (Marquess of Bath) 1955 3 All ER 129, which addressed similar circumstances, where it had been held that the divorce was valid and the divorce decree could be rectified to refer to the first marriage.

Relying heavily on this 1955 case, our client’s application to amend his divorce documentation to refer to the Madrid marriage ceremony rather than the London one succeeded before the President of the Family Division and it was confirmed that our client validly divorced in 1997, even though the date and place of the marriage had previously been incorrectly stated on his divorce documentation.

If you have any questions, please contact Amy Scollan, a Partner in the family team, on 07778 858670 or amy.scollan@hunterslaw.com

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