Matrimonial Causes Act 1937

JurisdictionUK Non-devolved
Citation1937 c. 57


Matrimonial Causes Act, 1937

(1 Edw. 8 & 1 Geo. 6.) CHAPTER 57.

An Act to amend the law relating to marriage and divorce.

[30th July 1937]

W HEREAS it is expedient for the true support of marriage, the protection of children, the removal of hardship, the reduction of illicit unions and unseemly litigation, the relief of conscience among the clergy, and the restoration of due respect for the law, that the Acts relating to marriage and divorce be amended:

Be it therefore enacted by the King's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:—

S-1 Restriction on petitions for divorce during first three years after marriage.

1 Restriction on petitions for divorce during first three years after marriage.

(1) No petition for divorce shall be presented to the High Court unless at the date of the presentation of the petition three years have passed since the date of the marriage:

Provided that a judge of the High Court may, upon application being made to him in accordance with rules of court, allow a petition to be presented before three years have passed on the ground that the case is one of exceptional hardship suffered by the petitioner or of exceptional depravity on the part of the respondent, but if it appears to the court at the hearing of the petition, that the petitioner obtained leave to present the petition by any misrepresentation or concealment of the nature of the case, the court may, if it pronounces a decree nisi, do so subject to the condition that no application to make the decree absolute shall be made until after the expiration of three years from the date of the marriage, or may dismiss the petition, without prejudice to any petition which may be brought after the expiration of the said three years upon the same, or substantially the same, facts as those proved in support of the petition so dismissed.

(2) In determining any application under this section for leave to present a petition before the expiration of three years from the date of the marriage, the judge shall have regard to the interests of any children of the marriage and to the question whether there is reasonable probability of a reconciliation between the parties before the expiration of the said three years.

(3) Nothing in this section shall be deemed to prohibit the presentation of a petition based upon matters which have occurred before the expiration of three years from the date of the marriage.

S-2 Grounds of petition for divorce.

2 Grounds of petition for divorce.

The following section shall be substituted for section one hundred and seventy-six of the Supreme Court of Judicature (Consolidation) Act, 1925(hereinafter called ‘the principal Act’):—

S-176

‘176. A petition for divorce may be presented to the High Court (in this part of this Act referred to as 'the court') either by the husband or the wife on the ground that the respondent—

a ) has since the celebration of the marriage committed adultery; or
b ) has deserted the petitioner without cause for a period of at least three years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition; or
c ) has since the celebration of the marriage treated the petitioner with cruelty; or
d ) is incurably of unsound mind and has been continuously under care and treatment for a period of at least five years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition

and by the wife on the ground that her husband has, since the celebration of the marriage, been guilty of rape, sodomy or bestiality.’

S-3 Definition of ‘care and treatment’ in relation to insanity.

3 Definition of ‘care and treatment’ in relation to insanity.

For the purposes of section one hundred and seventy-six of the principal Act, as amended by this Act, a person of unsound mind shall be deemed to be under care and treatment—

a ) while he is detained in pursuance of any order or inquisition under the Lunacy and Mental Treatment Acts, 1890 to 1930, or of any order or warrant under the Army Act, the Air Force Act, the Naval Discipline Act, the Naval Enlistment Act, 1884, or the Yarmouth Naval Hospital Act, 1931, or is being detained as a criminal lunatic or in pursuance of an order made under the Criminal Lunatics Act, 1884;
b ) while he is receiving treatment as a voluntary patient under the Mental Treatment Act, 1930, being treatment which follows without any interval a period of such detention as aforesaid;

and not otherwise.

S-4 Duty of court on presentation of petition for divorce.

4 Duty of court on presentation of petition for divorce.

The following section shall be substituted for section one hundred and seventy-eight of the principal Act:—

S-178

178.

(1) On a petition for divorce it shall be the duty of the court to inquire, so far as it reasonably can, into the facts alleged and whether there has been any connivance or condonation on the part of the petitioner and whether any collusion exists between the parties and also to inquire into any countercharge which is made against the petitioner.

(2) If the court is satisfied on the evidence that—

(i) the case for the petition has been proved; and

(ii) where the ground of the petition is adultery, the petitioner has not in any manner been accessory to, or connived at, or condoned the adultery, or where the ground of the petition is cruelty the petitioner has not in any manner condoned the cruelty; and

(iii) the petition is not presented or prosecuted in collusion with the respondent or either of the respondents;

the court shall pronounce a decree of divorce, but if the court is not satisfied with respect to any of the aforesaid matters, it shall dismiss the petition:

Provided that the court shall not be bound to pronounce a decree of divorce and may dismiss the petition if it finds that the petitioner has during the marriage been guilty of adultery or if, in the opinion of the court, the petitioner has been guilty—

( a ) of unreasonable delay in presenting or prosecuting the petition; or

( b ) of cruelty towards the other party to the marriage; or

( c ) where the ground of the petition is adultery or cruelty, of having without reasonable excuse deserted, or having without reasonable excuse wilfully separated himself or herself from, the other party before the adultery or cruelty complained of; or

( d ) where the ground of the petition is adultery or unsoundness of mind or desertion, of such wilful neglect or misconduct as has conduced to the adultery or unsoundness of mind or desertion.’

S-5 Decree of judicial separation.

5 Decree of judicial separation.

The following subsections shall be substituted for subsections (1) and (2) of section one hundred and eighty-five of the principal Act:—

(1) A petition for judicial separation may be presented to the court either by the husband or the wife on any grounds on which a petition for divorce might have been presented, or on the ground of failure to comply with a decree for restitution of conjugal rights or on any ground on which a decree for divorce a mensa et thoro might have been pronounced immediately before the commencement of the Matrimonial Causes Act, 1857 , and the foregoing provisions of this Part of this Act relating...

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