Power v Vidal [2019] EWHC 2101 (Fam)

The Decree Absolute is an official legal document, a court of law’s final order officially confirming the dissolution of a marriage and an important document which may well be required at some point in the future, not least if either party wish to remarry!  For those readers who have a civil partnership, the situation is the same only different terminology whereby a Decree Absolute of divorce would read as a Final Order of civil partnership.

The Decree Absolute conveys vital information about the impact of divorce on inheritance, specifically how a Will made pre-divorce will be interpreted on death and how the decree should be read with care, then stored away somewhere safe!

A copy of the Decree Absolute of divorce is sent to each party and retained by the Family Court for 100 years with a copy being sent to the Central Family Court where it remains for all time.

But wait, hold that thought for a moment…

What happens if you misplace or lose your Decree Absolute?  Surely it is easy enough to replace?  Under normal circumstances you would be right in thinking so, by simply requesting a new copy via the Gov.uk website and paying an application fee of £10, quoting your case number and the court in which the Decree Absolute was pronounced.


We live in a modern day, fast paced culture where no system is infallible, humans make mistakes and administrative failures do exist; all of which can be time consuming and costly, as Mr Power discovered in 2018.

In Power v Vidal [2019] EWHC 2101 (Fam): Mr Power, having had his Decree Absolute of divorce pronounced on 29th January 1997 and wishing to remarry in 2018 realised he was unable to find his copy of the Decree Absolute, a vital legal document needed to enable him to marry his new partner.

Mr Power wrote to the court to retrieve a certified copy of his Decree Absolute only to discover that the court could not locate the decree nor supply the date in which it was pronounced.  It transpired that the court had destroyed the original file in 2013, leaving no trace of any evidence that the divorce had actually been completed.

Logically the court’s next steps were to contact the Respondent in the divorce, Maria Vidal, by this time residing in Australia. Ms Vidal had a copy in storage some one thousand miles away in another part of Australia which she eventually located.  However, the copy was exactly that, a copy of a certified copy of the Decree Absolute. 

To rectify this situation, Mr Justice Mostyn  made a declaration that this was a true copy of the original and that the marriage was in fact dissolved in 1997.  Finally, the Decree Absolute was recorded at the Central Family Court and Mr Power received an apology from the court for the administrative failures…and of course, we assume, he is now happily married to his new partner.

Although an exceptional case, a lesson to learn here nonetheless, to keep important documents, particularly legal documents safe. The outcome may have been very different, especially if Mr Power’s ex-spouse had not been so obliging or indeed is she had not been able to be located!

Indeed it is true, per Mr Justice Mostyn’s judgment Power v Vidal [2019] EWHC 2101 (Fam):

This is an extraordinary series of unfortunate mishaps.’ 

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Looking for further advice on divorce and separation – contact Terina Kiss on 01522 561020 or email enquiries@ringroselaw.co.uk

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