A family court judge has dismissed 28 ‘DIY’ divorce applications after the couples offered identical reasons for why they wanted to break up.
The couples – who all used unregulated website iDivorces to file the online applications on their behalf – each claimed their spouse had become “moody without justification”, and that “on about two days every week” their partner would ignore them completely.
Mr Justice Moor said: “Different spouses behave in different ways. It is quite impossible for each of 28 respondents to have behaved in exactly the same way as the other 27,” adding that each petitioner would “simply have to start again”.
iDivorces explained it sent those requesting a divorce a standard template, including suggested examples of how their spouse was guilty of ‘unreasonable behaviour’ – currently one of five reasons couples can cite to obtain a legal divorce.
The template suggested claiming: “For about a year prior to the separation the respondent would become moody without justification and argumentative towards the petitioner.
“He/she would behave in this way on at least a couple of days every week, which would cause a lot of tension within the home thereby making the petitioner’s life very uncomfortable.”
The petitioners were advised to ‘correct’ anything that was wrong, but Director Matthew Eastham explained that in these cases, the petitioners had failed to do so.
The judge said he had considered referring the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions for perverting the course of justice, but opted instead for leniency.
Eastham said the website would not be making any changes to the way it operates as a result of the ruling.
Online divorces have been possible since 2018, but in June last year, MPs voted to introduce ‘no fault’ divorce in England and Wales, which will allow divorce in just six months and remove the need for divorcing spouses to provide any reason for ending their marriage.
The new law will come into force in April next year.
Lack of security
The Christian Institute’s Ciarán Kelly said: “This case demonstrates how easy it is to procure a divorce already. If you can tear up your marriage contract by simply filling in a form, or even by signing your name to a pre-written template, it makes a mockery of marriage.
“No-fault divorce is set to make the situation even worse. People should be able to feel secure in their marriages, not worrying that their spouse could leave them following the pettiest of arguments.”