In  EWHC 2776 (Fam) Ali v Rodrigues, claimant appreciated that the date of petition to divorce and date of and English respectively Scottish decrees are highly important to the husband’s immigration status. One way in which a former EEA family member can retain right of residence is if the marriage exceeded 3 years.
The husband was in Pakistan from 10th January 2016 to 18th February 2016. A certificate of entitlement to a divorce was issued on 21st March 2016 and decrees nisi and absolute were pronounced in the Romford (England) Family Court on, respectively, 12th April and 27th May 2016. That was the English decree. On 14th December 2016, the Home Office notified the husband that it was revoking his residence card on the basis that he was no longer a family member of an EEA national. The wife remarried in 2016, following the English decree and has sponsored her second husband’s application for leave to remain. The husband petitioned for divorce in Scotland on 27th September 2016, three years and five months after the date of the marriage and at least two years and three months from the date of the separation. On 6th November 2017, the Edinburgh Sherriff Court and Justice of the Peace Court pronounced the decree absolute, which is the Scottish decree.
If the English decree stands, the marriage will have lasted less than 3 years. If the Scottish decree stands, 3 years will have been exceeded. The husband essentially argues that the English decree is tainted by irregularity of service upon him. Lieven J held that the English decree should stand, on the basis that when it comes to failures related to service, it is appropriate to look at the nature of what went wrong and where the prejudice, if any, lies (at 36 ff). The wife took reasonable steps; and there are indications that the husband was trying to avoid service.
Given irregularities in service the English decree is voidable, but not void in the discretionary opinion of the court: the consequences of setting aside the English decree would more severe than that of the Scottish decree’s invalidity. If the English decree does not stand, the wife’s second marriage would have been made at a time when the first marriage persisted. That would be a very serious impact on her, her second husband and the child.