Do different rules apply to the Married at First Sight couples?
We have recently learned that Richard and Harriett who took part in this series of Married at First Sight have decided to separate and divorce.
Closer Magazine reported on this with the headline “Married at first sight couple forced to wait a year for divorce” . Of course, headlines are always intended to be attention grabbing, but it is wrong for the headline to suggest that this couple are subject to anything usual i.e. that different rules apply for them or that this couple were not expecting it to be the case.
Further down in the article, it is made clear that the couple were told that “under UK law divorce proceedings cannot start until 12 months after the marriage took place” and therefore it did not appear to come as a surprise to the couple. But was it a surprise for the public generally?
At Maguire Family Law we’re always keen to make sure that the public have a general awareness of some of the key foundations of family law. We’ve previously written blogs about rights of cohabiting couples and how there is a ‘common law marriage’ myth; and we’ve also covered the developing law on pre-nuptial agreements.
What then are the basics of being able to get divorced?
In order to get divorced in England, the key questions include:
- have you been married for one year?
- has that marriage irretrievably broken down?
- are you and your spouse are sufficiently connected to England to be entitled to get divorced here? For a lot of people who seek our help, this would be satisfied by the fact that both parties to the marriage live here.
There are other ways that a marriage can potentially be brought to an end, other than by a divorce. These tend to apply in very exceptional circumstances and they would need to be considered very carefully. Examples can include non-consummation of the marriage, or a lack of valid consent.
There are also certain categories of the marriage which are void and again which can have their invalidity confirmed by a court annulment. These include (but are not limited to) those marriages where with party is under 16 or where one party was already married at the time.
We very much hope that Richard and Harriett were very clear on the legal consequences of entering into a marriage. There is a suggestion that certain paperwork will have been signed in relation to their finances, and it may be the case that the parties have signed a prenuptial agreement which means that they have already agreed how their finances should be dealt with. If their financial affairs are in order, they can use the time in the lead up to the divorce to reflect upon the basis for divorce (for example, will the petition be based on one person’s behaviour or will they wait until they have been separated for two years). Taking the time to consider these grounds for divorce may make the process easier in the long run.
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