Down Memory Lane #2

Some months ago I wrote a post about affiliation orders, intending it to be the first in a series of posts detailing changes I’ve seen in family law in the 25-odd years that I've been doing this work (sometimes it seems even longer than that...). Well, I've finally gotten around to writing the next in the series, this time dealing with the subject of naming co-respondents in adultery divorce proceedings.

When I first started doing divorce work the rule was that a petitioner issuing a divorce petition on the basis of the respondent's adultery had to name the other person involved in the adultery, if his/her identity was known to the petitioner. Once named, the other person would become a party to the proceedings (the 'co-respondent'), and would have to be served with the divorce papers. Apart from creating unnecessary animosity, this could cause considerable difficulties for the petitioner, for example if the co-respondent refused to acknowledge service of the divorce papers upon him/her. As a result, many petitioners would falsely state that the identity of the adulterer was unknown to them, but this would involve perjury, and even a risk that the divorce decree could be rescinded if the false statement was discovered.

Thankfully, the rule was changed. If memory serves me correctly, the change came with the implementation of the Family Proceedings Rules 1991, which left it to the petitioner as to whether or not he/she named the co-respondent. Nowadays, the only good reasons to name the co-respondent are to prove the adultery (unusual - if the respondent does not admit the adultery, then the co-respondent is unlikely to do so), or so that the petitioner can claim costs against the co-respondent, although there are unfortunately instances when the petitioner merely wants to name the co-respondent out of spite or revenge.