In this law report, Family law trainee solicitor Beatrice Hill discusses a case centred around the finality of a 'final divorce order'.

Mrs Williams was the applicant in divorce proceedings from her husband, Mr Williams. Mrs Williams began the divorce process on 17 January 2023, the Conditional Order was granted on 9 August 2023 and she was permitted to apply for Final Order on 21 September 2023. There were also separate financial remedy proceedings which had not concluded.

On 3 October 2023, the Wife’s solicitors in error applied for the Final Order which was granted within 21 minutes of application. On 6 October 2023, the Wife’s solicitors realised their error and made a D11 application to set aside the Final Order. An Order was made by DDJ Underhill which indicated that the Court would be willing to set assist the Order.

The husband challenged this decision and requested for the wife’s application to be put before the President of the Family Division.

The wife submitted that the Final Order should be set aside on four procedure grounds which were:

1. Under the FPR 2010 at 4.1(6)

a. Court can make any other order to manage the case and further the overriding objective.

2. Using the High Court’s inherent jurisdiction as confirmed in X v Y [2020] EWHC 1116

a. In the precedent case the date of marriage was incorrect

b. In the case the error was corrected under FPR but it was confirmed that the High Court inherent jurisdiction could be used

3. Under an appeal

4. Amendment under the slip rule

a. Set out in FPR 29.16 where the Court can correct an accidental slip or omission in a judgment.

The husband submitted that the wife’s application to set aside the Final Order should be dismissed. The husband’s submissions were:

1. Court of Appeal authority of Shahzad v Mazher

a. A decree absolute is a final order.

2. Opening of the floodgates and setting up a third stage of the divorce proceedings in which other people could apply to have their Final Order being set aside.

The Judge ruled that the Final Order should not be set aside and the parties are divorced. The Judge did not think it was appropriate to depart from precedent on the basis of a procedural error. The Judge also felt there was a strong public policy interest to respect the certainty and finality that flows from a final divorce order.

If you have a family law case you need assistance with, please contact Mavis on 020 8885 7986 to arrange for an appointment with a solicitor in the family team.

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