key cases for family law

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R v Tolson

A husband deserted his wife in 1881. The wife heard from reliable sources that the husband had been drowned. The wife remarried in 1887. Later that year, the husband reappeared. The wife was charged with bigamy.

The court decided that, even though the wife (Mrs Tolson) had not waited seven years as she should have done, she honestly believed that the husband, Mr Tolson, was dead. Therefore, she was acquitted.

You might think this is a fair and sensible decision.

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Cann V Cann (1997)

In 1960, Mrs Cann obtained a separation order and a maintenance order from the Magistrates' court , and in 1961 the couple were divorced. In 1974, Mrs Cann applied for a variation and maintenance was increased to £7 per week. In 1976, Mr Cann retired, and applied for a reduction. His weekly income was £23 and Mrs Cann's was £13's was £13. The court reduced the order to £5 per week, I.E: both parties were left with the weekly sum of £18.

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Re Jones

Jones was a soldier stationed in Northern Ireland. In 1978 he was shot, and on the way to the hospital and in front of two officers he said 'if i do not make it, make sure Anne gets all my stuff' (Anne was his fiancee). Jones died the following day.

The court decided that this statement was Jones' last will, even though he had previously made a will in favour of his mother. He was on active military service at this time.

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Re Bravda (1968)

The testator made a home-made will and had it properly attested by two witnesses. He then asked his two daughters (sole beneficiaries under the will) to sign it to 'make it stronger'. The court held that, under the 1837 act, the daughters had to lose their bequests under the will, as they had also witnessed the will.

This case was clearly unfair, and the parliament acted immediately to change the law. Under the wills act 1968, provided there are two, independent (not a spouse) witness who take no benefit as well as the would-be beneficiaries, the beneficiaries is allowed to take the benefit. Thus in the above case, the daughters would have kept their bequests, because there were two other witnesses who did not benefit from the will.

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