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Divorce set aside after husband forged wife’s signature

A woman has had her divorce set aside (annulled) after she found out that her husband had forged her signature on divorce papers 12 years earlier. 

annulment

Bradie Pell

Mr and Mrs Randhawa married in 1978.  The date of their separation is disputed with one saying it was 2009 and the other saying it was 2011.  However, as far as Mrs Randhawa was concerned, whilst she accepted the separation, the couple remained married and continued to attend family functions as a married couple.

Divorce petition filed in 2010

Mr Randhawa filed for divorce in 2010 (before the advent of no-fault divorce) on the basis of his wife’s unreasonable behaviour, and the decree absolute was granted in April 2010. Mr Randhawa went on to remarry Ms Kaur and has a child from this marriage.  Whilst Mrs Randhawa had heard rumours that her husband had a child with another woman, she said she had no idea that he had remarried and believed that she was still married to him.  Mr Randhawa told people that the other woman’s child was, in fact, his grandchild, who had been conceived using his dead son’s preserved reproductive cells. A DNA test proved that the child was, in fact, was his.

Wife had no idea she was divorced

Mrs Randhawa claimed that she had no idea that the couple was divorced until she found out when she filed for a judicial separation in 2019.  She said that she had not been notified of any proceedings and that the signature on the acknowledgment of service – stating that she did not contest the divorce, was a forgery.  She applied to Family Court for the divorce to be set aside.

Mr Randhawa denied the allegations, saying that she had been fully engaged in the divorce proceedings and that they had kept it a secret for cultural reasons and so as not to embarrass their children. He accepted that he did not take legal advice regarding the divorce and that the divorce petition had been typed by his friend under his instruction.  He could not explain why he had not engaged a solicitor.  He also accepted that there were some errors in the petition; one meant to ensure that correspondence did not go to Mrs Randhawa’s address.

Family Court case for annulment

Mrs Randhawa’s case went ahead in the Family Court in 2021, during which a forensic document examiner said that there was ‘very strong evidence’ that the signature was not Mrs Randhawa’s, but as Mr Randhawa had not provided a sufficient sample of his own handwriting, she was unable to confirm that it was his.

At the hearing, Judge Moradifar said that he was satisfied that the signature on the divorce documents was faked by or on behalf of Mr Randhawa, stating that he was “the only person with opportunity and motive to ensure that the divorce proceeded without difficulties” – (the couple had amassed a fortune from property transactions during their marriage and there were several disputes regarding property). The judge further said that he found Mr Randhawa ‘highly evasive’ and that his reason for not providing a proper sample of his handwriting lacked ‘any credibility’. He found that Mrs Randhawa had not had notice of the divorce and set the divorce aside.

This now means that to obtain a divorce, Mr and Mrs Randhawa will need to go through a proper divorce procedure, which should involve a financial hearing or negotiations to sort out property issues.  It may also mean that Mr Randhawa has committed bigamy if his marriage to Ms Kaur was conducted under English law.  This was not addressed in the trial.

Bradie Pell, partner and head of Graysons’ family team says:

“This sort of case is rare, but they do happen.  It is certainly something we will need to keep an eye on with the advent of no-fault divorce, where many applications are now submitted online.”

If you are worried that your spouse or civil partner may be trying to obtain a divorce or dissolution of civil partnership without your consent, contact our family law experts now.

Author: Bradie Pell, partner and head of Graysons’ family team.

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