Copy and Paste divorce petitions

July 2022 | Benrina Browne

Family & Divorce

The High Court recently dismissed a significant number of divorce petitions after finding that some sections of the forms were ‘absolutely identical’ to each other.


Every relationship and the cause of the breakdown is different, but in the recent case of Celine-Shelby v Yorston, the courts found that 28 divorce applications from 28 different people, all seemingly based on the same reasons. Under the old laws, there was only one ground for divorce in England and Wales — the marriage has broken down irretrievably, but in order for the court to find that this is the case, one of five ‘facts’ must be relied on. Often referred to as ‘unreasonable behaviour’, the most common fact relied upon is that the respondent has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with them.

Each of these petitions had identically worded particulars of unreasonable behaviour, alleging that the respondent became argumentative for at least two days a week for a year before the separation, making the petitioner’s life ‘very uncomfortable’. The allegations also included in each case that the respondent became ‘moody without justification’ and excluded the petitioner from their life, ‘thereby making them feel very dejected’.

All the petitions had been drafted and filed on behalf of the 28 petitioners by an online divorce advisory service, that had sent standardised wording to each petitioner with a request for any changes to be made if the information was incorrect. But none of the petitioners amended the wording. The judge, Mr Justice Moor, quite rightly held that the particulars could not all be true and dismissed all the petitions.

The service provider explained that they had in effect been trying to rush in applications before the ‘no-fault’ divorce came into force.

This cautionary tale reinforces the importance of ensuring you are receiving a professional and personally tailored service.

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