Family Law Week judgment summary: Mahtani v Mahtani [2023] EWHC 2988 (Fam)

05 December 2023

Lauren Suding summarises a judgment for Family Law Week  about a wife who succeeded in getting a stay lifted on her English divorce and financial remedy proceedings. The proceedings had been initiated in 2021 and 2022.

The Deputy High Court Judge refused to recognise an Indonesian court-ordered divorce, because the husband had misled the court to obtain it in 2017.

The High Court applied Section 51(3) of the Family Law Act 1986, which governs the validity of an overseas divorce, and cited various cases:

  • Duhur-Johnson v Duhur-Johnson (Attorney-General Intervening) [2005] 2 FLR 1042
  • Olafisoye v Olafisoye (No 2) (recognition) [2010] EWHC 3540 (Fam), para 33
  • Ivleva v Yates [2014] EWHC 554 (Fam), paras 6 and 10
  • Liaw v Lee [2016] 1 FLR 533
  • Lachaux v Lachaux [2017] EWHC 385
  • Radseresht v Radseresht-Spain [2018] 1 FLR 1443, para 3
  • J v J [2021] 3 FCR 549

The High Court found that the conditions of s51(3)(a) were made out - such steps were not taken as “should reasonably have been taken”. The husband had deliberately hidden from the Indonesian court his wife’s whereabouts and the means of communicating with her, which he knew.

Having met the test in the 1st stage, the High Court moved to the 2nd stage, in which the court had a discretion as to whether to recognise the Indonesian divorce.

It refused to recognise the Indonesian divorce obtained by the husband in November 2017.

Therefore the marriage was still valid under English law, and the High Court lifted the stay on the divorce and financial remedies proceedings. So the wife's applications would be heard by the English court.

View the summary of the judgment on Family Law Week.