HL Deb 16 April 1969 vol 301 cc184-5WA

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether their attention has been drawn to recent cases in the Divorce Courts in which the names of innocent parties have been joined, to the disadvantage of their fame and fortune and upon grounds which the Courts have subsequently decided to have been unsupported by the evidence, and whether this situation can be rectified without recourse to legislation.


On a petition for divorce presented by the husband on the ground of adultery the husband is required by Section 4(1) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1965 to make the alleged adulterer a corespondent unless excused by the court on special grounds for doing so. Similarly, where the petition is presented by the wife, she is required by Rule 13(1)(b) of the Matrimonial Causes Rules 1968 to make the alleged adulteress a respondent unless the court otherwise directs. I am aware that sometimes in divorce cases charges are made against third parties which prove to be unfounded. In such a case it is open to the party concerned to apply to the court to dismiss him from the suit. The application will seldom be granted, however, until after the close of evidence on the part of the petitioner. This practice, which accords with the provisions of Section 4(3) of the Act of 1965, seems to me to be right because it would rarely be satisfactory to decide, before the hearing of the case, that a charge against a third party could not possibly succeed.