Family Law Week reports that Mr. Justice Mostyn refused to recognise a decree of divorce granted in Malaysia, on the grounds that it had been granted on the basis of a “knowingly false” petition.
The case involved parties who married in Singapore in 2001. They separated in 2010, at which time they were living in London.
Later that year, the wife raised divorce proceedings at Clerkenwell and Shoreditch County Court, citing her husband’s conduct as the reason. The petition was rejected because the allegations made by her regarding her husband’s conduct were insufficient to establish grounds for divorce.
In November, 2013, the wife e-mailed her husband’s solicitor in Malaysia, asking for an address to which divorce papers could be served. An exchange of e-mails followed, but the husband’s address was not disclosed to her. She eventually filed an amended petition for divorce on 30th January, 2014.
In January 2014, the husband’s solicitor in Malaysia sent an e-mail to the wife, requesting that she provide her home UK address so that an official letter could be sent to her. The wife did not reply to the email and her husband subsequently applied to the Malaysian court for a divorce the next day – a divorce which was granted on 1 April.
In the papers supporting his application, the husband falsely stated that there were no overseas proceedings relating to the marriage, and neither did he inform the Malaysian court of the exchange of e-mails between his solicitor and his wife.
At his request, the Malaysian court agreed to waive the normal waiting period between the granting of decree nisi and decree absolute.
The wife, who was completely unaware of the existence of the Malaysian proceedings, continued with divorce proceedings in England and on 1 September 2014, the decree nisi was duly pronounced. In the meantime however, her husband had sent her a copy of the Malaysian divorce decree by e-mail. She informed the County Court of this after decree nisi was pronounced, whereupon the case was transferred to the Central Family Court for further consideration.
Since the wife had not been given any notice of the divorce proceedings taking place in Malaysia, much less contest them, Mr. Justice Mostyn criticised the conduct of both the husband and his solicitor in Malaysia, saying that in his opinion, both had been guilty of “sharp practice” and had filed a petition which was “knowingly false”.
Although he recognised that it was unsatisfactory for there to be two different divorce decrees in different jurisdictions regarding the same marriage, he refused to recognise the Malaysian decree and authorised the wife to make absolute the decree nisi granted in England.