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Court rejects bid to appeal overseas divorce ruling

A Bulgarian national has been refused permission to appeal a court ruling that overseas divorce proceedings should not be recognised. in the UK.

Yordanova and Iordanov concerned the marriage of the man to a Russian woman at the Bulgarian embassy in London in September 2006. The marriage quickly ran into difficulties, with tensions erupting during a Christmas visit to his home country. During the visit, both parties signed powers of attorney with lawyers.

The couple returned to London and later parted company. Then in 2007, divorce proceedings began in the Bulgarian courts and these were concluded the following January. In his Court of Appeal judgement, Lord Justice Thorpe noted:

“Certainly, according to the law of Bulgaria, the parties were divorced by the end of January 2008.”

Nearly three years later, however, and some time after the former couple had ceased to live under the same roof, the wife began divorce proceedings.

In the words of Lord Justice Thorpe:

“The husband’s predictable reply was: what on earth is this all about? We have been divorced ever since the beginning of 2008.”

The man applied to have the wife’s petition struck out, on the grounds that there was no existing marriage. But when the matter eventually came before Wandsworth County Court, the judge dismissed his ‘strikeout’ application.

The woman insisted that she had not known she was signing a power of attorney document, Lord Justice Thorpe explained.

“She had not understood that she was signing a power of attorney which would enable him to dissolve the marriage at will and without notice to her personally, and her understanding was that the document she signed was only in relation to property issues between them.”

The man appealed, claiming that “to refuse recognition would be to create different outcomes in law in this jurisdiction and in Bulgaria and would be a manifest injustice to the lady who he had married as well as to himself.”

But Lord Justice Thorpe held that the original judge had seen ample evidence that the woman had not been aware of what she was signing and therefore the original judge had been right to conclude:

“…that something that would pass muster in Bulgaria simply would not pass muster here in terms of our concept of justice and our concepts for due process…”

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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