Randhawa: Divorce set aside for forgery

Image: Public Domain, via Piqsels

I wanted to briefly comment upon Randhawa v Randhawa, not because it sets any new precedent, but because of its rarity value. Thankfully it is very unusual (at least in my experience) to come across a case in which a divorce is set aside for forgery.

The essential facts of the case can be stated very shortly.

The parties were married in 1978. They separated in 2009. In 2019 the wife petitioned for judicial separation, only to discover that the husband had issued divorce proceedings in January 2010, resulting in a decree absolute being granted in April that year.

The wife claimed to have no knowledge of the divorce. She therefore applied for the decree to be set aside, alleging that she had never been given notice of the divorce, and that any signature on the acknowledgement of service purporting to be her signature was a forgery.

The application was opposed by the husband, who had remarried in 2011. 

The application was heard by His Honour Judge Moradifar. As the case was very fact-specific, I need not go into details. Suffice to say that:

(a) A forensic document examiner found that, compared to the known sample signatures of the wife, there was "very strong evidence" to support the proposition that the signature on the acknowledgment was not written by her, but that it was a simulation (freehand copy) of her genuine signature style, by another individual; and

(b) Judge Moradifar preferred the evidence of the wife to that of the husband, who he found expected the wife to be a "major stumbling block" in the way of his aims.

Judge Moradifar therefore found that the wife had had no notice of the proceedings, and that her signature on the acknowledgement of service was a forgery, forged by or on behalf of the husband.

Accordingly, the decree of divorce was set aside.

I suppose it should be said that that this case will soon lose much of its relevance, once no-fault divorce comes in. Whilst the respondent will still of course have to complete and file an acknowledgement of service (see the new Part 7 procedure), they will no longer have the opportunity to defend, meaning that there will no longer be much incentive to seek to proceed with a divorce without giving notice to the respondent, so long as the applicant can prove service. [Upon further devious reflection I suppose another reason not to serve the respondent could be to prevent, or at least delay, them from issuing a financial remedies application.]