Married at First Sight UK – What Happens When It All Goes Wrong?

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Married at First Sight UK – What Happens When It All Goes Wrong?

It would be fair to question whether the marriages on Married at First Sight are real, legal marriages. Well, in short, they’re not. If they wish, the couples can walk away without any legal issues. However, many of the couples follow up the televised ceremonies by getting legally married and many of these marriages fall apart soon afterwards.

So what do they do then?

The Channel 4 reality show is dramatic and, to many, entertaining, but it throws up many real issues that family lawyers have to deal with every day. Below, we explore some of the issues highlighted on the show or in its aftermath and explain how they can be tackled in the family court.

1. Jonathan ‘blocks’ the divorce

Jonathan and Steph wed on the show in 2018 and split just three weeks after their disastrous honeymoon in Spain. However, Jonathan refused to sign the divorce paperwork, causing a nightmare for Steph, who as at January 2021, was still married.

At this time, Steph would have had to rely on one of six facts to support the one ground for divorce, namely the irretrievable breakdown the of marriage. Those facts were adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two-years separation with Jonathan’s consent (which she clearly couldn’t get) or five-years separation, without his consent.

However, as of April 2022, 'No-Fault Divorce' is in effect. As such, if Steph hadn’t obtained Jonathan’s consent and/or cooperation by this point, she could have (and may well have) applied for a divorce without requiring Jonathan’s consent or cooperation. She also wouldn’t have had to blame him for the relationship breakdown.

It is worth noting here however that couples can only get divorced once they have been married for a period of at least one year. So it’s unlikely Steph would have been able to bring the marriage to an end after just three weeks, unless she could annul it (see below).

2. Ella comes out as transgender

The second episode of the current season saw 29-year-old Ella coming out as transgender after marrying her husband, Nathanial. In a heart-warming moment, Nathanial accepted Ella for who she is before coming out to her as pansexual, explaining he falls in love with the person regardless of their gender. It was amazing to see this work out for the couple, but what could Nathanial have done if this wasn’t something he was comfortable with?

Issues of gender identity could be grounds for an annulment, which is usually the way to end a marriage if it was not legally valid in the first place. for example:

  • The couple are closely related;
  • one or both of them were under 18 (or under 16 if the marriage took place before 27 February 2023); or
  • one of them was already married or in a civil partnership

Other reasons can make a marriage ‘voidable’ including:

  • Unconsummated marriages;
  • Forced marriages;
  • Where one of the parties was pregnant by someone else during the marriage;
  • Where one of them gave the other an STD during the marriage; and
  • Where one of them was transitioning.

As Ella had already transitioned before the marriage, Nathanial would likely only be able to annul the marriage if it hadn’t been consummated.

Unlike divorce, a person can apply for an annulment in the first year of their marriage.

3. Allegations of controlling and coercive behaviour are made against George

George Roberts and April Banbury married during the last season but announced their split in August 2022 and George was arrested for alleged controlling and coercive behaviours. Three women made independent complaints about his alleged “obsessive,” “manipulative” and “abusive” behaviour. April claimed that the show had ruined her life but George has denied any wrongdoing.

Coercive and controlling behaviour is now a criminal offence in the UK, hence there was a remedy in criminal law. However, if April had been worried about George harassing. Intimidating and/or threatening her after their separation, she could have applied for a non-molestation order, which is a type of injunction granted by the family court. If such an order was granted by the court, it could have been used to prohibit George from using or threatening physical violence, intimidation, harassment, pestering or unsolicited communication with April.

4. Melissa and Clark divorce

Melissa and Clark married on season 2 of the show and separated five months later, getting a divorce later down the line. Melissa had moved Clark into her home in London and likely made other joint financial decisions with him. This raises the question, what protection is in place for people and their finances when they marry a stranger on a reality TV show?

It has been confirmed that pre-nuptial agreements are prepared for each couple on the show so as to protect their assets. A prenuptial agreement, which is also referred to as a prenup, is a contract entered into between couples before they get married. It records the ownership of assets and details what will happen to these assets should the marriage end in divorce. Pre-nups can help couples feel comfortable entering the marriage, both knowing their assets are protected and knowing there is provision for them if the marriage doesn’t work out – it works both ways.


For legal advice from our experienced and dedicated family law solicitors, get in touch with us by calling 0345 872 6666 or complete our online enquiry form to request a call back.

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