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Divorce pre 1930

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Gypsy Report 25 Aug 2013 23:20

I have an ancestor who married in 1930, I suspect however that her groom was already married.
He married in 1903, and from what I can see on the census and electoral roll, didn't live with his wife for very long (if at all).
On his marriage in 1930 he lists himself as a widower - his wife was still alive.
On his wife's will, it states her as a widow at the time of death.

How likely would divorce have been? I always thought it unlikely at that time.



+++DetEcTive+++ Report 25 Aug 2013 23:29

Sounds like bigamy! There was probably more of it going on than we like to think.

If someone could afford to be divorced, they'd be more likely to describe themselves on a new MC as single or divorced. As a divorced person, they wouldn't be able to marry in an Established Church - not sure about other denominations.

The informant on the DC for wife no.1 probably did think that she was widowed


+++DetEcTive+++ Report 25 Aug 2013 23:31

tells you about the survival rates of divorce records, and how to search for them


Gypsy Report 25 Aug 2013 23:37

Yes I think bigamy too.
The DC for wife no 1 (she was actually number 2, wife no 1 did die) may be correct. I haven't found a positive death yet for the husband. He definitely wasn't a widow when he married (3rd marriage ) my ancestor though! Although I guess he had been widowed previously.? Hmm
He had four grown up children at the time too- he was 60 so wouldn't they have known? Also he had been living with my ancestor since at least 1911, so she must have known-else he kept it well hidden!


Gypsy Report 25 Aug 2013 23:39

Thanks for the link, I will have a look.
They got married in the Register Office, not the church.

Chris in Sussex

Chris in Sussex Report 27 Aug 2013 16:30

If a person hadn't seen or heard from the other party for at least seven years then they could legally marry as a widow/widower if they believed the other person was dead.

I expect it was wishful thinking in some cases :-D


Chris in Sussex

Chris in Sussex Report 27 Aug 2013 18:06


I heard this in a NA lecture, think it was 'sex, lies and registration'.

Audrey Collins referred to instructions given to Registrars in the 1860s (may have been 70s) that it was legal for a person to marry as a widow or widower if their spouse had not been heard off in the previous seven years.

Certainly now someone would have to be declared dead and in my former life I dealt with a transfer of mortgage where one party had been so declared. I have no idea when the more formal requirement came into force but I am sure there is an 'Act' somewhere containing it :-)


Chris in Sussex

Chris in Sussex Report 27 Aug 2013 19:22

Looks like it came in 1973....Which is later than I would have guessed.

Decree of Presumption of Death and Dissolution of Marriage and Presumption of Death Order

15. Under section 19 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and section 37 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 where a married person or civil partner goes missing and the surviving spouse or civil partner wishes to dissolve the marriage or civil partnership, he or she can apply for a “decree of presumed death and dissolution of marriage” in the case of a marriage or in the case of a civil partnership a “presumption of death order”. A decree or presumption of death can be obtained at any time after the spouse or civil partner goes missing and will be granted if the court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds that the missing person is probably dead. The decree or presumption of death order can only be used to dissolve the marriage or civil partnership. They cannot be used to obtain a death certificate and do not allow a person to obtain financial or property orders against the former spouse of civil partner. Such ancillary relief will only be available if the missing person returns.

16. The decree or presumption of death order will allow the spouse or civil partner left behind to marry or enter a civil partnership.



Gypsy Report 27 Aug 2013 22:14

Thanks for all the advice.
Yes, I too thought that divorce was expensive back then, although I do think they were probably ok financially but certainly not rich.