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15 DEC 2005

DIVORCE: D v D (Nature of Recognition of Overseas Divorce) [2005] EWHC 3342 (Fam)

(Family Division; Bodey J; 15 December 2005) [2006] FLR (forthcoming)

The couple were married in England, and then went through a separate marriage ceremony in Greece (at the time Greek law would not have recognised the English marriage). The parties lived in Greece, and were later divorced there; following negotiations involving experienced specialist lawyers, the husband and wife signed an agreement purporting to settle all financial issues. As a result of concerns that Greek law did not recognise the original English marriage, and did not purport to dissolve it, Greek lawyers advised the husband to check the legal position in England. His original English lawyer advised issuing a divorce petition in England; eventually a district judge was persuaded to proceed with the divorce on the basis that the parties were in agreement. Immediately prior to the decree absolute, the wife launched a claim for ancillary relief.

Under Brussels 2, the English court must recognise the Greek divorce and should have declined jurisdiction as being second seised. In English law there was only one marital status created by a valid marriage recognised by English law, and if that marital status were put to an end by an overseas court in circumstances where the overseas divorce was recognised here, then the effect was to terminate the marriage tie for all purposes, not only there but also in this jurisdiction. The wife would not be given leave to apply for financial relief, notwithstanding that she had not had full disclosure of the husband's assets; as it was more likely than not that she would ultimately be held to the finality of the Greek agreement.

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