Tuesday 21 May 2019

Woman who maintained 'vengeful and vitriolic' campaign against estranged husband fails to get marriage declared null and void

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Tim Healy

A woman described by a High Court judge as having maintained a “vengeful and vitriolic” campaign against her estranged husband has failed to get a decree of nullity rendering their 13 year marriage legally null and void.

Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds said the woman had provided "no sustainable evidence" to support her claim the man had subjected her to such duress the marriage happened without her consent.

The reality is the woman was an independent young woman working abroad when she met the man, they lived together abroad before getting engaged and later returned here to marry in a wedding attending by friends and family, the judge said.

There was “simply no evidence” to support the woman's additional claim the man lacked capacity to enter into and sustain a caring and considerate marital relationship, she further found.

The failure of the marriage was due to the incompatibility of the parties in circumstances where the marital relationship broke down over time, she said.

“It is an unfortunate reality of life that marriages break down, hence the necessity for divorce legislation.”

The judge described as “utterly reprehensible” and “wholly unsubstantiated” claims by the woman in respect of the man's sexual orientation as being either homosexual or bisexual.

Various allegations pursued by the woman against him with the HSE, the Garda Ombudsman and other State bodies were "malicious and vindictive" and had proved to be unfounded, she also said. Those allegations included of child neglect and more serious matters, she further noted.

The woman has maintained a sustained “vengeful and vitriolic" campaign against her estranged husband since she lost custody of their dependent children and her actions in that regard “are regrettable to say the least”, the judge said.

Her motivation in pursuing these nullity proceedings was further fuelled by her religious beliefs and her understanding, if she got a decree of nullity from the court, that would help in seeking a church annulment.

The judge noted a psychiatrist had reported the woman is a practising Catholic keen to seek a church annulment and is unhappy that, against her wishes, her estranged husband does not take the children to Mass. She had also raised issues about his fathering skills.

For all the reasons outlined, the judge, in a recently published judgment, dismissed the woman's application

Outlining the background earlier, the judge noted the man and woman are both Irish, met abroad, got engaged after nine months, married here and have two children, the youngest born in 2001.

Their marriage broke down after 13 years, they began to live apart and the woman left the family home with the children. They got a decree of judicial separation from the Circuit Court in 2011 which provided the children would reside primarily with the man, both parents would have joint custody and the woman would have access. Two years later, the woman initiated the nullity proceedings.

The judge said it was clear from the evidence the woman is “aggrieved” by the fact the man secured custody of the children in the judicial separation. She had not just maintained nullity proceedings but also tried, and failed, to have the children taken into temporary care pending the outcome of the nullity application.

The man has separately issued divorce proceedings which were stayed pending the outcome of the nullity claim.

In opposing nullity, he said he and the woman had a normal happy courtship, lived together for a time before they married which he had expected would be a marriage for life. He said they had a difficult marriage, were at times violent and abusive towards each other and their relationship deteriorated over the years to a point where he realised, 13 years into the marriage, it was over. He also vehemently denied her claims concerning his sexual orientation.

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