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This week's blog focuses on the requirements of the Greek Orthodox Church when a couple have obtained an English decree of divorce. It gives guidance on the area and sets out the main procedural requirements. Solicitors advising in this area should always refer their clients to the Ecclesiastical Court office in London for further information.
Divorce in the Greek Orthodox Church
When acting for a client who was married in a Greek Orthodox Church in England and Wales, you should advise them to also consider applying for a divorce in the Greek Orthodox Church once the English civil decree of divorce has been pronounced. This is known as an Ecclesiastical divorce. In the event that they wish to re-marry in the Greek Orthodox Church they must obtain an Ecclesiastical divorce in addition to the civil divorce.
Re-marriage may be the last thing on a client's mind, particularly if they have just concluded protracted and costly English divorce proceedings. Things may change in the future and they may wish to re-marry in the Greek Orthodox Church. Therefore as a solicitor it is important to advise your client in this regard.
If they do wish to obtain such an Ecclesiastical divorce, they will need to make an application to the Ecclesiastical Court of the Archdiocese of Thyateira at Thyateira House, 5 Craven Hill, London W2 3EN.
In the first instance it may be wise for them to contact the Ecclesiastical Court and to speak with Revd George Zafeirakos. He will be able to provide them with guidance as to the procedure to be followed. The telephone number is 0207 485 2149.
In summary, they will need to do the following:
1. Submit a short summary document setting the reasons why they are seeking the divorce.
2. Provide the original/certified copy of Decree Absolute certificate granted in the English civil divorce,
3. Provide the original/ copy of your Ecclesiastical marriage certificate,
4. Pay a fee.
Once the above have been submitted, the application will be considered and date will be set for a short informal hearing to take place before Revd George Zafeirakos. Usually both former spouses are in attendance at the hearing however if one party refuses to attend the divorce can still be granted in their absence and without their consent. Each case will be decided on its own merits. Generally speaking however, if it can be shown that there is no scope for reconciliation between the parties (which is usually the case bearing in mind that there will already be a civil decree of divorce in place) then the Ecclesiastical Court will not oppose the decree. There will normally be only one hearing that they are required to attend. These hearings take place on the first Tuesday of each month.
One point to bear in mind is that the Greek Orthodox Church will not allow more than a total of 3 religious marriage ceremonies and even this is only in extreme circumstances. However, if your client has been married at a Register Office without a religious ceremony then this will not be counted.
For further guidance on this area please contact Associate and Greek specialist, Ms Lucy Loizou of the International Family Law Group (Telephone 0203 178 5668 or e-mail Lucy.Loizou@iflg.uk.com)
The Red Book is the acknowledged authority on practice and procedure