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.’