W v W (Decree Absolute): FD 31 Mar 1998

The parties, foreign nationals, had married abroad. The came to live here, but H returned in 1996. W sought to pre-empt proceedings abroad by divorcing here getting a decree nisi. She began ancillary relief proceedings, and was awarded maintenance pending suit which was paid, but H failed to co-operate with the ancillary relief application beyond denying that he had capital assets. He gave various undertakings to the court which he did not comply with. He then obtained a religious decree of divorce in New York with a view to remarrying there. He was shown to have flown to New York on Concorde. He requested the court to grant the decree absolute, and W resisted saying that this would make her ancillary relief application more difficult.
Held: W’s appeal was allowed. A court has a discretion to withhold a decree absolute and will in rare circumstances use it where there had been shown a clear detriment in implementing an ancillary relief order. H here had already demonstrated his readiness to obstruct the ancillary relief application. It would not normally be sufficient simply to rely on enforcement difficulties because a party lived abroad.
Bracewell J
Times 31-Mar-1998
Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 9(2)
England and Wales

Updated: 20 February 2021; Ref: scu.90216