An interesting case was heard in Leeds Crown Court last month. A man was found guilty of perjury and perverting the course of justice, after forging his disabled wife’s signature on divorce documents in order to divorce her without her knowledge.
He had continued to live with his unwitting “wife” for a further year, sharing in £1 million of compensation money that she had received. He had also remarried in secret, in a religious ceremony overseas.
The full details of the case can be found here. The scam only came to light only when the “wife” decided to file for divorce – and discovered, to her shock, that she was already a divorcée.
To divorce a spouse is easier than you might think. The petitioner’s honesty and integrity are presumed. The bare minimum that a respondent spouse must do is sign the form acknowledging receipt of the petition. This form is then relied upon by the court as evidence of the respondent’s knowledge of the divorce.
During the course of my career, however, I’ve seen a number of forged signatures on documentation. If a petitioner is proved to have lied, the court will set aside the “divorce” and come down on him like a ton of bricks – as with any court proceedings in which misconduct is identified.
Perjury and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice are offences that carry certain prison sentences, so such conduct isn’t to be recommended! In my experience, the most unscrupulous characters are self-assured, self-made businesspeople who think they can fool others into believing their elaborate scams. These people come a cropper, once the facts of the case have been viewed objectively and found wanting. The truth comes out – and the price for such greed is often high.
The man in the Leeds case should have popped over to our Harrogate family law office and seen me! He had no need to do what he did; acting honestly, he could have been successful.
He could certainly have included his wife’s compensation money in his financial claims. My bet is that he would have received a part of it. I have previously represented clients in such situations. Compensation money is a marital asset, even though the wife in this case would have had a prior claim. It would have been offset against other assets, of which the husband could have received a higher proportion of those – and why not, particularly if he had assisted her throughout her health challenges?
Instead this man was sentenced to two years in prison. Prison rations, confinement and public humiliation are his lot. Is he still in a position to obtain any of the marital assets? His is the worst type of litigation misconduct, so without further knowledge of the financial circumstances it is difficult to say.
I am sorry to say that during my career, I have come across many such characters. The only consolation is that when justice prevails – as it usually does – it is always an extremely satisfying conclusion to an otherwise unsavoury case.