Am I divorced?

A recent story of a carpenter who avoided jail time for being a bigamist should serve as a stark reminder to anyone going through a divorce. It is very important to make sure all stages of the process are completed correctly before embarking on a new legal relationship with a new partner.

Paul Phibbs had been separated from his first wife Kim Hee Jung for 15 years when he and his new partner, Kerry Hudson, decided they wanted to get married. Divorce proceedings were issued and Mr Phibbs obtained a Decree Nisi from the Court. This document confirmed that the Court had no issue with Mr Phibbs wanting a divorce from Ms Hee Jung and gave him permission to obtain his Decree Absolute. However, for some reason he did not obtain his Decree Absolute until February 2011, some 14 months after he and his new partner Miss Hudson had got married.

The Court heard that the illegal marriage came to light after Mr Phibbs split up from Ms Hudson and she commenced divorce proceedings. Her solicitor noticed the discrepancy between the date of their marriage (November 2009) and the date of Mr Phibbs’ Decree Absolute from his first marriage. Although Mr Phibbs claimed that Ms Hudson knew his Decree Absolute had not come through she agreed to get married to him anyway because their wedding was already booked and paid for and a lot of the cost would have been non-recoverable. However, Ms Hudson denied this.

The Court decided that rather than a custodial sentence, Mr Phibbs should have a 12-month community order with a curfew for four weeks, 100 hours of unpaid work and pay £170 in costs.

Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.

Suffolk Family Solicitors – for more information on our range of legal services, please call the team on 01473 611211 or email