Moynihan v Moynihan (No 2): FD 1997

The Queen’s Proctor applied to have set aside a decree absolute of divorce obtained by fraud on the part of the petitioner, the by then deceased Lord Moynihan. The particulars set out in the petition were false in a number of material respects; the affidavit in support of the petition, in which the petitioner swore that everything stated in his petition was true, was perjured; the statement of the proposed arrangements for the child of the family, filed with the petition, was wholly misleading; the petitioner subsequently falsely told the court that the child had died when he knew full well that he was still alive; the acknowledgement of service purportedly signed by the respondent wife (and in which she purportedly admitted the adultery alleged in the petition) was false. Additionally, the petitioner falsely asserted an English domicile when he was in fact domiciled in the Philippines.
Held: Sir Stephen Brown P pointed to deliberate lies: ‘In order to deceive the court into accepting jurisdiction in his divorce suit, he told quite deliberate lies. He persisted in and added to the lies when the registrar at Tunbridge Wells County Court required confirmation and further elucidation of the domicile position. Those lies enabled the court to accept jurisdiction and to proceed to deal with the divorce suit.’ and ‘However, this was not his only deceit of the court. I am satisfied on the balance of probability that neither the respondent wife nor the co-respondent was served with the petition. Lord Moynihan arranged for false acknowledgements of service to be returned to the court, and yet a further deception related to the child of the family’. He concluded: ‘I find that there was a clear, deliberate and sustained deception of the court by Lord Moynihan . . Lord Moynihan unfortunately was a man accomplished in fraud and indeed in forgery.’
He concluded: ‘A decree absolute is generally considered to be good against all the world. It is an order ‘in rem’. However, if it has been obtained by fraud, there is a fundamental defect. In this case, I have no doubt that Lord Moynihan’s divorce petition was deliberately framed in a way which was calculated to deceive the court. All the subsequent representations and submissions which were made to the court were vitiated by fraud. He wished to obtain a divorce. He wished to do so even if his wife objected to it, as I believe she did or would have objected, if only on financial grounds. He quite deliberately set out to deceive the court. His affidavit verifying the petition was false, and in swearing it he committed perjury. He perverted the course of justice and succeeded in obtaining a decree. It is a gross case. The inevitable consequences to all are serious. I have no doubt that I should set aside and declare null and void the decree absolute and the decree nisi and dismiss the petition.’
Sir Stephen Brown P
[1997] 1 FLR 59
England and Wales
CitedLazarus Estates Ltd v Beasley CA 1956
There was a privative clause in the 1954 Act. A landlord’s declaration under the Act that work of a specified value, supporting an increase in rent, had been carried out on leased premises, could not be questioned after 28 days of its service on the . .
[1956] 1 QB 702, [1956] 1 All ER 341, [1956] 2 WLR 502

Cited by:
CitedRapisarda v Colladon (Irregular Divorces) FC 30-Sep-2014
The court considered applications to set aside some 180 petitions for divorce on the grounds that they appeared to be attempts to pervert the course of justice by wrongfully asserting residence in order to benefit from the UK jurisdiction.
[2014] EWFC 35, [2015] 1 FLR 597

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 14 December 2020; Ref: scu.537237