How many divorces can a single person get?

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February 8, 2017

Managing Partner Julian Hawkhead appeared on St Albans radio station Radio Verulam this morning. He was asked a number of family law questions which had comes from the station’s listeners. These included a query about how many divorces a single person can get before they can no longer remarry.

Julian explained that there is in fact no maximum number of divorces someone can have before they can no longer remarry. He suggested that the issue depends on the individual’s capacity, rather than there being a maximum number of times someone can get married and divorced.

Another listener asked for advice about dealing with a counterfeit solicitor after he received what he thought was his decree absolute but his wife knew nothing about it. Julian told the listener to use the case number quoted on the divorce papers to check with the court if the divorce has indeed been finalised. He also suggested that anyone who is unsure about their solicitor should check with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). All law firms in England and Wales are regulated by the SRA.

Julian also answered questions about whether or not it is illegal to marry and divorce someone only to get a share of their money, tribal marriages and inheritance.

Transcript from Julian Hawkhead on Radio Verulam

PR                       Phil Richards

JH                        Julian Hawkhead

PR:                      Is it a crime to marry somebody so you can divorce them for money soon after?

JH:                      You will probably be surprised how much that happens. It is the classic gold digger scenario, where somebody has married somebody for money. Could that be seen as some form of deception to get financial benefit? The reality is in practice it would be impossible to prove a crime. Obviously to prove a crime you have to prove beyond reasonable doubt. What we often find is that people who come to us who aren’t married and they find that they have no financial rights, because you don’t get them if you just live together. Sometimes they then go away and get married because then you acquire those rights. In reality, it is not a crime. A really short marriage would not give any financial claims really anyway. You put the parties back into the position that they came into the marriage. It’s not really a crime, no.

PR:                      I divorced my wife and have been given all the paperwork from my solicitor. My ex-wife says she doesn’t know anything about it. It looks like my solicitor is bogus and has sent me false paperwork and ripped me off. What should I do?

JH:                      In terms of this particular individual, I would recommend firstly that they look at the divorce paper they’ve been sent. Was it given a case number? Every divorce issued in the county court or now what is called the family court is allocated a case number. Call the local court and ask them if those papers have been issued and they will be able to confirm whether or not that has been done. If it hasn’t, then it truly is a bogus lawyer, and unfortunately they’ll have to start the process again and it looks as though they may have lost some fees. I would also recommend that they contact an organisation called The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and ask for some information of this firm. Unfortunately, you do find from time to time that these bogus firms pop up. Certainly what I would recommend to all of your listeners, if you’re looking for a solicitor, make sure you check their credentials, look on their website, check with the SRA if you need to. Every law firm has to be regulated and given an authorisation number by the SRA, so it’s very important you do your homework on the lawyers you want to instruct.

PH:                     Julian, do you normally ask for some form of upfront payment as a general rule?

JH:                      You would do, probably what is called ‘money on account’. That covers the court fee firstly; the court fees cost £550 alone, so obviously there’s a quite big outlay there. So the client would pay the solicitor that amount of money. Be very careful and do your homework on the solicitor that you want to instruct.

PR:                      How many times can I divorce before I can no longer remarry?

JH:                      I was actually looking back through our blog; we have a blog called www.marilynstowe.co.uk. I found a story from 2014 covering a chap who wanted to write about his marriages; he was Britons most married man. At that point he had been married eight times. He was celebrating his tenth anniversary and said that he had now found true love. Unfortunately, I then found another story from last year, the same chap had been divorced again and he was marrying for the ninth time.

In law you can divorce as many times as you want. You can marry as many times as you want. Of course, you can’t marry more than one person at the same time. Your previous marriage must be dissolved, must be annulled or you must be widowed. Providing you have the mental capacity, so you understand what is going on and what you’re getting into, you can marry as many times as you want.

PR:                      I had a tribal marriage in my native country and am now a UK resident. How can I find out if my tribal marriage is recognised as legal in the UK?

JH:                      There are different criteria to consider and it all comes under a statue called The Marriage Act. There are three tests to apply:

  1. Is the type of marriage that the parties had in the foreign country one which is recognised in that country? If you imagine two people standing on a beach saying “let’s get married” and it’s all fine, that may not satisfy the local requirements for a valid marriage.
  2. Does it satisfy the legal requirements of a marriage in that particular country? There is a classic tale of Mick Jagger who supposedly got married many years ago on a beach in Bali. The relationship broke down and she went to court seeking a divorce and his lawyer’s defence was they were not actually legally married. So her financial claims were much reduced to what they would have been if they were married. So you have to satisfy the legal requirements of that particular country.
  3. Was there anything in the law from which the parties lived in? For example, a couple are from the UK, get married in Bali. First of all you have to satisfy what’s required in Bali but also if there is anything in the UK that prevents them getting married. For example, if one of the parties was underage. If it is unlawful in the country from which they come from it also wouldn’t be a valid marriage.

PR:                      I divorced my wife 10 years ago. My mother has recently passed away and has named my ex-wife as a beneficiary in her will. Does this still stand in the will, given we divorced after the will was written?

JH:                      I think what your listener is thinking about here is a standard rule which would apply to somebody getting divorced. In the middle of divorce and with a will in place, the act of divorce invalids parts of their will. For example, if I died and was divorced and in the will had left something to my wife, the act of divorce (the final decree of divorce), called decree absolute would mean that the element of the will which left part of my estate to my wife would no longer be valid because she would no longer be my wife. That applies to somebody who has been divorced; it doesn’t apply in this case. This listener’s mother is entitled to leave her estate to whomever she wants to. If she has chosen to leave it to his ex-wife, and then didn’t change the will when her son was divorced, then nothing has changed. The only possible hope for your listener might be if his mother’s will said, “I leave X, Y and Z to my son’s wife” and doesn’t name the wife. Then that would render that part of it void. But if the person has actually been named, then it will be a valid will and it will be upheld.

Click here to listen to the interview (available for one week).