Divorce decree overturned after 12 years
On 26 January 2022 the Court handed down judgment in the case of Randhawa v Randhawa. This case concerned a couple who were married in 1978 and the husband petitioned for divorce in January 2010, with final decree granted in April 2010 on the grounds the marriage had irretrievably broken down due to the wife’s unreasonable behaviour.
During an eight-day hearing in 2021 the wife alleged the divorce proceeded without her having any idea or notice of the proceedings and that the acknowledgment document (where she allegedly agreed not to contest the grounds) was not signed by her.
The husband denied her allegations and resisted the application to set aside, asserting his wife was fully aware and engaged in the process, and that for cultural reasons they kept the divorce a secret. He has since remarried and has a child with his new wife.
Presiding over the case, His Honour Judge Moradifar concluded the wife’s purported signature on the acknowledgement of service form was a forgery created by or on behalf of her husband. The judge cited no direct evidence that the husband was responsible, but found his explanation for failing to provide a sufficient sample of his handwriting lacked ‘any credibility’.
‘It is clear to me that in 2010, Mr Randhawa had a vested interest to be divorced from Mrs Randhawa,’ said the judge. ‘He was the only one of the parties who had an involvement in the divorce process in circumstances that I find that Mrs Randhawa did not have notice of the divorce proceedings. Thus leaving Mr Randhawa as the only person with opportunity and motive to ensure that the divorce proceeded without difficulties.’
Whilst this situation is rare, it highlights a clear message that the Court quite rightly will not tolerate the correct process being circumvented and will rebuke law breakers with severity.
Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors in Ipswich.