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Divorce Set Aside Due to Husband's Forgery

on Monday, 28 February 2022.

A woman was unaware she was divorced for 12 years after her husband forged her signature.

In the recent case of Randhawa v Randhawa, a husband was found to have forged his wife's signature on her acknowledgment of service. As a reminder, the current standard process to obtain a divorce involves:

  • a divorce petition being submitted to the Court by the Petitioner. The Court will then serve this petition on the Respondent
  • the Respondent signing and returning the acknowledgment of service form to the court, confirming that they do not contest the divorce
  • the Petitioner applying for 'Decree Nisi', and once received, the Petitioner can then apply for 'Decree Absolute'

Mr Randhawa, the Petitioner, was found to have forged his wife's signature on the acknowledgment of service in 2010, meaning that for the last 12 years she was completely unaware that divorce proceedings had even started.

Why Would Someone Use Forgery in a Divorce Petition?

The court found that Mr Randhawa had a vested interest to be divorced from Mrs Randhawa without any obstacles or difficulties, as he wished to marry his new partner.

It also meant that Mrs Randhawa did not have the opportunity to issue financial remedy proceedings for a share of the matrimonial assets at that time. This is because, to issue financial remedy proceedings, spouses must have also submitted a divorce petition to the Court. As Mrs Randhawa did not have notice of the divorce and believed she was still married (although separated), she was prevented from taking this action at that time.

The divorce was annulled by the Judge for forgery.

What About Online Divorce Petitions?

Mr Randhawa submitted his divorce petition when they were completed in a paper format and so any forgery would have required him to fake his wife's signature.

Divorce petitions are now completed online on the HMCTS portal. Some practitioners have warned that fraud could perhaps become even more prevalent with the online system. A Respondent is sent a letter by email, that can be downloaded by both them and the Petitioner, with log-in details to acknowledge service. Any fraudulent attempt such as this would however be illegal and the Petitioner could be fined or imprisoned for contempt of court.

However, with the new 'No Fault Divorce Regime' arriving in April 2022,the Respondent will no longer have the opportunity to defend the divorce petition. With this option no longer available, there may be less of an incentive to commit fraud or forgery to seek to proceed in a divorce without notifying the Respondent.

If you would like any advice or support in relation to the breakdown of your marriage, please contact a member of our New Enquiries team on 020 7405 1234, or complete the form below.

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