(Court of Appeal; Thorpe, Smith and Hallett LJJ; 7 March 2006)
The wife petitioned for a divorce, and obtained a decree nisi. Before decree absolute, the husband asserted that the marriage had been validly dissolved some years earlier, by a talaq divorce pronounced in Pakistan. The wife asserted that the husband's documents in support had been forged. Of his own motion, the judge adjourned the application, directing that the husband issue an application in the Pakistan court to determine the question of validity of the talaq divorce within a specified time. The wife appealed.
The judge could adjourn a case for investigation in another jurisdiction of his own motion, even if that outcome were not initially sought by any of the parties. The exercise of such a discretion must necessarily have a broad ambit and it would be exceptional to hold that such an order was plainly wrong. It was no criticism of the judge to say that no precedent for such an order could be found; in international family law, opportunities and practices which existed today were simply not available to the judges of earlier decades. There was a need to investigate the fraud, which could not be done as effectively by the English court as by the Pakistan court, and the English judge had not merely abdicated responsibility.