Divorce rules and out-of-office messages: your letters to the editor
Don’t take divorce rule for granted
As a family solicitor, some of the rules of divorce can become mundane. This makes it all too easy to assume that everyone, lawyer or not, also knows these rules. An example of this is the statutory bar on petitions for divorce within one year of marriage. I am often surprised by how many non-family lawyers are unaware of this rule, not to mention couples entering into marriage.
Divorce law in England and Wales makes it clear that no one can pursue a divorce in their first year of marriage. This rule seems obvious to me and my colleagues who regularly deal with the legalities of divorce, so I am often surprised by people’s reactions when they first learn of this. On the one hand, I can understand their surprise as this means two people in an unhappy marriage must stay put until the one-year timer runs down. On the other hand, it makes sense that people do not rush into a marriage, thinking they can simply dissolve it at a moment’s notice. However, the latter is somewhat undone by the fact that most couples are not even aware of this rule in the first place.
To be precise, a spouse must wait one year and one day before presenting a petition to the court. Therefore, it is not enough for the petition to have been issued or even dated after this period; it must in fact have been received by the court after this time. An amended petition sent after this period will not even suffice. In order not to fall foul of this rule, it must be a completely new and fresh application received by the court.
These small but crucial points might seem obvious to most family lawyers. Yet Sir James Munby recently gave a judgment involving four separate petitions; decrees nisi and absolute that were set aside for not following this rule. Ultimately, the divorces in each case were null and void, meaning the subjects had to apply for divorce once again. In one of those instances, the wife had subsequently remarried and, as a result of her divorce being set aside, her remarriage was now void.
The implications of a simple rule like this can be far-reaching. While it is easy for lawyers to take this knowledge for granted, it is a rule that should not be taken lightly. Surely more must be done to ensure all are aware of the one-year bar on divorce.
Family solicitor, Moore Blatch
In my recent piece Mental Awareness Week – why we should give a damn, I referred to a rather blunt out-of-office message, albeit internal, I received. It ran, ‘I am not at work, leave me alone’.
I have since come across an even better one. It said, ‘Thank you for getting in touch, I should get back to you within 24 hours. You can tell me off if I don’t’. It came from a children’s entertainer. Maybe he could teach us a thing or two about client care.
Has anyone come across a better out-of-office assistant?
Solicitor and family law arbitrator, Reading, Berkshire