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Why you shouldn’t copy and paste your divorce petition

The High Court has dismissed 28 divorce petitions after finding that the particulars of behaviour were ‘absolutely identical’ to each other.

Every marriage is different, but in the recent case of Celine-Shelby v Yorston, the courts were confronted with 28 divorce applications from 28 different people, all seemingly based on the same reasons. There is only one ground for divorce in England and Wales — the marriage has broken down irretrievably, but in order for the court to find that this is the case, one of five ‘facts’ must be relied on. Often referred to as ‘unreasonable behaviour’, the most common fact relied upon is that the respondent has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with them.

Each of the petitions in the present case had identically worded particulars of unreasonable behaviour, alleging that the respondent became argumentative for at least two days a week for a year before the separation, making the petitioner’s life ‘very uncomfortable’. The allegations also included in each case that the respondent became ‘moody without justification’ and excluded the petitioner from their life, ‘thereby making them feel very dejected’.

All the petitions had been drafted and filed on behalf of the 28 petitioners by an online divorce advisory service, iDivorces, that had sent standardised wording to each petitioner with a request for any changes to be made if the information was incorrect. But none of the petitioners amended the wording, despite the fact that each divorce petition would have required them to sign a statement of truth to the court. The judge, Mr Justice Moor, quite rightly held that the particulars could not all be true and dismissed all the petitions.

The service provider did try to defend themselves by explaining that they had been trying to prematurely push towards ‘no-fault’ divorce. This is due to come into force in April 2022 and removes the requirement to rely on a fact of divorce. Until no-fault divorce is the law however, there is still a legal threshold to be met. This case is a stark reminder of that no marriage — or divorce for that matter — is the same. Where petitioners use online divorce services rather than meet with and discuss their case with a specialist lawyer, there is a risk that their petition may not be accurate and ultimately be dismissed by the court.

Disclaimer

This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2022.

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