Highlighting once again the importance of the jurisdictional forum of divorce proceedings, the courts have recently considered the matter of Mr and Mrs Thum and their jurisdictional dispute.
Catja Thum, won the race to lodge her divorce petition in England, before her financier husband, Oliver Thum, did the same in Germany, after she found out that Mr Thum had taken his mistress to his office party and taken her to Rome for her 40th birthday.
The wife had issued her divorce petition in England on 26 October 2015, while the husband had issued his petition in Germany on 20 January 2016. However, Mr Thum was not served with the English petition until 27 February 2016, i.e. just over four months after the date of issue of Mrs Thum’s petition.
in the dispute, Mr Thum sought to rely on his wife’s delay in effecting service and argued that service had been ineffective as he had been served at his business address in Germany at first, rather than his home address. The husband sought that a time limit be implied into FPR Rule 7.8, namely that service be effected “as soon as possible” or “as soon as practicable”.
However, the Court of Appeal was persuaded that in this dispute the wife had not failed to take any required step for effective service, nor could a time-limit for service be read into FPR Rule 7.8, as this was outside their powers and an issue for the Rule Committee to content with, if it felt necessary. Handing victory to Mrs Thum, Lord Justice Moylan ruled that, as she issued proceedings first, the English divorce petition was “first in time” and took precedence over Mr Thum’s attempt to shift the case to Germany and thus, the divorce would go ahead in England.
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