DIVORCE: Akhtar v Rafiq [2006] 1 FLR 27

28 JUN 2005

(Family Division; Bodey J; 28 June 2005)

The husband and wife underwent an arranged marriage in England. Four years later the wife returned to Pakistan without her husband and there she remained. The husband went through an Islamic form of divorce at a local mosque and then issued divorce proceedings, giving an address in Pakistan for the purposes of service. The acknowledgment of service form stated that the petition had been received and signed by a thumbprint by the wife. The husband identified the thumb impression as his wife's and a decree absolute was made. The wife later served a divorce petition on the husband. The county court revealed that a decree absolute had already been made. The wife sought a declaration that the decree absolute was void. The High Court declared that the decree nisi and decree absolute were void. On the basis of the evidence, there was no proper service of the husband's petition. The Family Proceedings Rules 1991 (SI 1991/1247) as to service should be properly complied with so that, prior to decree nisi, service was properly shown to have taken place or else to have been duly deemed to have taken place or else dispensed with. If not, then even cogent evidence that the respondent was aware of proceedings, although sufficient to satisfy the district judge prior to the specific procedure certificate, should not suffice to save the situation after the event, save in the most exceptional circumstances. See also November [2005] Fam Law 856 for the case report and comment.

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