Married at First Sight

7th April 2021 Family Law

It’s been the ‘thing’ to watch on TV over lockdown (before the Oprah interview with Harry and Meghan Markle was aired anyway). Those who missed its first UK airing in February may well have caught up over the Easter bank holiday. I´m talking, of course, of Married at First Sight Australia, which has caused quite a stir, with more twists and turns than a rollercoaster, and jaw dropping moments. 

Unfortunately for some these ‘moments’ are real life, without a camera crew documenting every excruciating moment for the world to watch. So what does happen if you find yourself married, only to find out shortly after the wedding that you no longer wish to be joined in holy matrimony?  It is possible to have the marriage annulled, and on what basis? 

According to social media – and this does contain a SPOLIER ALERT for those who have extended their browsing (or rather obsession), and delved into the archives of Married at First Sight USA season 10 where we saw Michael and Meka wed, who were granted an annulment. 

It’s alleged that shortly after bride, Meka informed her many Instagram followers that the couple had decided to divorce. Michael made the announcement that he had petitioned to have the marriage annulled, on the basis that they did not believe the TV marriage was real, and Meka’s change of name meant that she had hidden secrets from Michael.  

So on what basis can a marriage be annulled?

A marriage may be annulled if it is deemed under The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 as void or voidable, i.e. it is void because it never took place and the decree is simply declaratory, or it is voidable in that it is regarded as a valid marriage until a decree of annulment is pronounced by the court. 

Void

So under what grounds is a marriage deemed void? There are three grounds under which a marriage can be considered void:

  1. The marriage is not valid under the Marriages Acts 1949 to 1986, which includes when either of the parties is under the legal age of 16 years old, if the marriage is prohibited due to the degree of the parties’ relationship, or the parties have married disregarding certain requirements as to the formation of the marriage;
  2. At the time of the marriage either or both of the parties were lawfully married to another; and    
  3. If either party under a polygamous marriage entered into outside of England & Wales was domiciled in England & Wales at the time of the marriage.

Voidable 

A marriage can be determined voidable on the following eight grounds:

  1. The marriage has not been consummated owing to the incapacity of either party at the time of the marriage / after the marriage (this does not apply to a same sex marriage)
  2. The marriage  has not been consummated due to the wilful refusal of the Respondent (this does not apply to a same sex marriage) 
  3. Either party did not give their valid consent to the marriage, for example through duress, mistake, the influence of drugs
  4. Either party at the time of the marriage was suffering from a mental disorder
  5. At the time of the marriage the Respondent was suffering from a contagious and venereal disease 
  6. At the time of the marriage the Respondent was pregnant by another 
  7. Since the marriage, an interim gender recognition certificate under the Gender Recognition Act 2004 has been issued to either party
  8. At the time of the marriage, the Respondent acquired their gender under the Gender Recognition Act 2004

In some instances, a decree pronouncing a marriage annulled may be refused by the court, if the court has reason to believe that the Petitioner knew at the time the marriage took place, that it could have been deemed void but proceeded regardless and led the Respondent to reasonably believe that they would not seek the marriage void, or the court believes it would be unjust to the Respondent to grant the decree. 

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Grace Matthews is an Associate Solicitor located in Manchesterin our Family department

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