Couples who thought they were divorced could still be married after a series of blunders by officials

Newly-divorced couples may still be married because of a series of blunders by officials.

A senior judge said that those affected were granted legal break-ups too quickly.

In some cases, couples submitted divorce petitions before they had been married a year – the minimum period.

In others, officials approved divorces before the applicants had spent enough time apart.

Individuals who have remarried are at risk of having inadvertently committed bigamy.

The mistakes appear to have been made at the 11 divorce centres set up in England and Wales since 2015.

Sir James Munby, the most senior divorce judge, has ordered courts to apologise for the ‘devastating impact’ the errors will have on those who thought they had formally separated.

The news of the mishandling of divorces was issued in a technical briefing to the courts.

Sir James Munby said, ‘Very recently a number of cases have been brought to my attention where decrees nisi and absolute have been granted notwithstanding that the petition had been issued within one year of the marriage.’

He said that in such cases the divorce would be null and void and that he had called in the Queen’s Proctor – a government lawyer employed to deal with family law cases – to tell the courts to strike divorces out.

Sir James added, ‘Judges will wish to be alert to the potentially devastating impact on litigants of being informed that there is a problem with their decree. Especially (and this is unlikely to be known to the court when the first communication is made) a litigant who believes they have been validly divorced has remarried or is due very shortly to remarry.

‘Communications should accordingly be expressed in appropriately sympathetic and apologetic language.’



Woman demands £700k compensation over ‘cheating’ husband’s death because ‘they would have got back together’

A woman who was in the process of divorcing her husband when he was killed by a speeding driver wants almost £700,000 in compensation, claiming they would have reconciled had he not been killed.

Cathryn Craven, 50, has taken her claim to the High Court amounting to £676,985 against Davies on behalf of herself and her family under the Fatal Accidents Act.

At the time of Mr Cravem’s death, the couple were in a “cooling off period” between decree nisi pronouncement and decree absolute.

After a 29 year relationship they separated in January 2014 after Mr Craven began an affair and Mrs Craven petitioned for divorce.

Mrs Craven’s counsel, Marcus Grant, told Judge Freedman that there was an 80% chance of reconciliation while lawyers for the other side say that is “no more than fanciful” and was never going to happen.

Mr Grant added that neither Mrs Craven, who worked as a part-time travel consultant, nor her husband, who was the major breadwinner, had received legal advice about the financial implications of going through with the divorce.

He also said that had Mrs Craven thought it through, she would have opted to save the marriage and reconcile, which was Mr Craven’s wish.

He said: “The claimant is quite satisfied that once furnished with this advice she would have done everything in her power to reconcile with the deceased and to terminate the divorce proceedings.

“The cooling off period between the decree nisi and decree absolute stages in divorce proceedings is specifically designed to provide angry couples with time to reflect on the financial reality of their decisions before they become irretrievably committed to acting on them.”


Rogue landlords should have properties taken away say MPs

According to a report by the housing, communities and local government committee, councils should be given powers to seize the properties of the “worst” landlords when accommodation fails to meet proper legal standards.

The committee has called out a “clear power imbalance” in parts of the private rental sector. They further said that landlords should face tougher punishment when they commit offences.

MPs have also called for greater protection for tenants who are living in poor conditions. These include mould or faulty wiring. They added that tenants who feel like they can’t complain to their landlord because they’re scared of “retaliatory” action should also be protected.

At present, rogue landlords face civil penalties and a fine for offences.

However, sometimes the fines issued by the courts are too small to even make the prosecution worthwhile.

In the case of the “most egregious offences,” where landlords relied on exploiting vulnerable tenants, the report said councils should be able to confiscate their properties.


Irish couple who got married in Ireland and divorced in UK unable to remarry

An Irish couple who got married and then divorced now want to get remarried, however are prevented from doing so because of a legal loophole.

Laura Hamilton and Paul McSherry, from Dublin, got married in Ireland in 1990 and then moved to London.

In1998 they decided to get divorced in London’s High Court.

Both Laura and Paul moved separately back to Ireland.

The couple have decided to remarry but are unable to do so because of a legal loophole known as the domicile rule.

The domicile rule states that in order for a foreign divorce to be accepted in Irish law, both parties must be domiciled, or have their permanent legal residence located, in the country where the divorce was granted.

The case remains ongoing.

‘Meal ticket’ divorce ruling signifies change in maintenance

A high-profile divorce ruling scrapping future payments signifies a sea change in how courts regard maintenance, according to a leading family lawyer.

As reported by the Law Gazette, in the case dubbed the ‘meal ticket for life’, the Court of Appeal ruled that maintenance payments for Kim Waggott from her ex-husband should end after three years.

The 49-year-old had been awarded a settlement of £9.76m and £175,000 in annual maintenance payments for life, after she was divorced from her multimillionaire husband William in 2012.

She had asked the court to approve an increase in annual payments, but he challenged the original award.

The Law Gazette stated, sitting in the appeal court, Lord Justice Moylan said Mrs Waggott could make up the shortfall from losing her annual payments by investing around 10% of her initial payment and using the interest. Moylan ruled that payments should stop from March 2021.

The judge added, ‘Any extension of the sharing principle to post separation earnings would fundamentally undermine the court’s ability to effect a clean break.’

Henry Hood, head of the family department and partner at London firm Hunters Solicitors, said the judgment is likely to be seen as the most significant indication yet that the law relating to spousal maintenance is less generous than before.

‘There had been a distinct division amongst the judges dealing with these matters, and Moylan LJ was seen as the standard bearer for the more generous approach,’ said Hood. ‘His judgment may therefore have confirmed a more limited approach to maintenance, both as to amount and duration, than was the case a few years ago.’

The lawyer also suggested the judgment may produce a consistent approach across the country, and end the situation where maintenance orders standard in some parts of the country are unobtainable in other areas.

It has been reported that Mrs Waggott now faces a ‘significant’ legal bill following the judgment.


New energy rules for landlords come into force

From April 1 the Government’s Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards came into force.

This means renters may be able to save up to £1,150 a year on their energy bills.

Landlords will now have to improve the energy efficiency of their properties and risk facing fines of up to £5,000 if they don’t.

The new scheme is designed to improve the insulation of rented homes in England and Wales.

The changes mean that properties have to have a minimum Energy Performance Certificate rating of E.

The certificate ranks properties’ energy efficiency from A – the most well insulated and energy-saving homes –  to G, which is the worst.

The new rules will initially apply to only new tenancies and renewals before extending to all existing tenancies by 2020 – and means that landlords will no longer be able to legally rent out homes with an EPC rating of F or G.

The new rules aim to make living conditions for renters, particularly vulnerable tenants, in the private sector much better as well as reducing energy bills.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, says that the average energy bill cost for those living in a band G home is £2,860, compared to just £1,170 for those living in a band E property.

Judge rules cohabitant entitled to portion of partner’s £1.5m estate

The High Court has ruled in favour of a woman who received nothing from her late partner’s £1.5 million estate.

In a ruling handed down on 29 March, the High Court ruled in favour of 79-year-old Joan Thompson, saying she should be entitled to a distribution of Wynford Hodge’s estate.

According to the Law Gazette, in Thompson v Raggett, Thompson pursued a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 against Hodge. He had left his whole estate, valued at £1,535,060, to tenants and friends. The couple had been together for 42 years.

His Honour Judge Jarman QC said Thompson should be given reasonable provision for her maintenance.

Thompson was granted one of Hodge’s properties worth £225,000.

The court heard the property had been purchased with a view to the couple retiring to it. Thompson was also granted £160,000 for her future maintenance and care, and £28,845 to renovate the property.




New ‘digital mortgages’ launched

New “digital mortgages” have been launched as the Land Registry moves the process online to save time and inconvenience for homeowners.

The Land Registry announced the first mortgage deed not to have been signed with a pen and paper has been accepted as part of a trial with Coventry Building Society.

It said a new online verification service which phases out the need for signature witnesses and posting pieces of paper will be launched nationally within two months.

To prove their identity homeowner will need to digitally sign their mortgage deeds and enter their personal information into a verification portal.

The digital system will initially only be available for remortgage customers.

This means first time buyers and other customers taking out a new mortgage will still need to use pen and paper for the foreseeable future.


Residents take landlords and managers to court over ‘skyrocketing’ management fees

Residents living in an apartment block in Kingswood have taken the building’s owners and managers to court over “skyrocketing” and “extortionate” management fees.

Residents of Grantham Apartments in Two Mile Hill claim the amount they pay per month to management company ABC Estates for general works and repairs has more than doubled in the past few years.

The property owner and manager have also demanded a further £50,000 from the 13 apartment owners in order to pay for “major works” to be carried on the property.

A civil hearing was held to determine whether the management fees being charged and the amount being asked for to carry out major works are reasonable.

The hearing was the second tribunal between the residents and the companies.

The initial one took place last year and resulted in favour of the tenants who had claimed ABC Estates was overcharging them in maintenance charges and management fees.

Their decision to return to court was induced by a further rise in fees, and the demand for £50k to pay for works on the building.

Christine Crowe, a resident who was nominated by the tenants to represent them at the hearing said: “We can’t afford all these prices and charges going up and up each year with less and less work being done.”


Petition launched to change law allowing murderer to keep control of his victim’s property

A woman is urging the Scottish Government to change a law which allows her brother control of the home where he strangled their mother to death.

Ross Taggart muredered his mother three years ago but still remains executor of her will.

Taggart, 33, has refused to relinquish control of his mother’s £350,000 estate, despite being in prison for his mother’s murder.

Taggart has further rejected requests for his sister Lorraine Bristow to access her mother’s property to collect sentimental items such as photographs.

Lorraine has backed a petition asking for a change in Scots Law to prevent convicted murderers from acting as executor of the estate of the person they were convicted of killing.

The petition, set up by Lorraine’s husband Stephen Bristow, states: “We would like to see a change in Scots Law that would prevent convicted murderers from being able to act as Administrator/Executor of the estate of the person they were convicted of killing.

“Ross Taggart is currently in jail in Scotland dictating to his lawyers what should be done with the estate of the person he murdered.

“His sister is unable to obtain access to her own mother’s home to collect personal and sentimental items as he continues to reject her requests.

“Lorraine has no pictures of/with her mother from when she was a child, all the family photographs and memories are locked away in a house that a convicted murderer makes the decisions about.

“My wife and her father have been unable to move on with their lives since this happened in 2014 and would like some closure on this.”

Lorraine shared the petition, writing: “Please take a moment to sign and share. Thank you for your continued support.”