Successful Remote Hearing of Nullity Plea before Williams J: Padero-Mernagh v Mernagh (Queen's Proctor Intervening) [2020] EWFC 27

Simon Murray acted for the Queen's Proctor (an ancient office held by the Treasury Solicitor, who represents the interests of the Crown in matters of Divorce) who had intervened in a complicated matter regarding the validity of marriages in the Philippines. The final hearing was of particular note in that it was successfully conducted over one day by teleconference shortly after the 'lockdown' commenced, in circumstances where neither the petitioner nor the respondent were represented. The court heard oral evidence and argument on the law of the Philippines from the petitioner and the respondent.

Williams J dismissed an application for a decree of divorce and granted a decree of nullity in circumstances where the evidence showed, on the balance of probabilities, that a marriage that had taken place in the Philippines in 2005 was bigamous. A foreign marriage would be recognised in English law if it was effective under the law of the country where it was undertaken. Only if it was recognisable could it be dissolved by a decree of divorce in the English court. The court found that the wife's earlier marriage in 1994 subsisted under Philippine law. Accordingly, the 2005 marriage between the petitioner and the respondent could not constitute a valid marriage under the local law and was therefore not capable of recognition in English law. There could be no divorce but the court could, and did, grant a decree of nullity.

The judgment is available here