Stala Charalambous is a family law expert
‘With this ring I thee wed…’, but did you? ‘I want a divorce’, but are you legally married?
Weddings are a great time to celebrate, but couples should take care to ensure that if they want to be married to their partner, that the wedding ceremony is legally recognised and valid in the land (country) where it takes place. Otherwise, they could find that their beautiful wedding day was just a memory and wishful thinking. This could have serious, detrimental financial consequences should the relationship ‘turn sour’ or in the event of the death a partner. It can also affect a father’s parental responsibility for a child. If unmarried, the father will not have automatic parental responsibility for a child. He will need the other parent’s agreement or a court order.
Clients often ask the question, ‘I live in England but married abroad, can I divorce in England?' The answer is ‘yes’ provided the wedding was conducted in accordance with the laws of that country where the marriage took place, so as to make a valid marriage in that country at the time it was made.
If however, you live in England, and you have what you believe is a wedding, but that wedding was not conducted in accordance with what England requires for it to be a valid marriage, or if the wedding was conducted in a place which is not recognised as being one that can carry out valid marriages in England, or if the ceremony was conducted by an unauthorised official, then your ‘marriage’ will not be recognised as a valid one in England.
Parties must comply with the Marriage Act 1949 otherwise the marriage may be void.
Unless you are getting married in an Anglican Church and are both British Citizens or from the EEA (Economic European Area), or Switzerland, you need to give notice to your local register office (usually at least 28 days before the wedding) of your intention/wish to marry. If you wish to marry in an Anglican Church, you need to give notice of your wish/intention to marry to your local Anglican Church. The authorised person officiating the ceremony in the Anglican Church will register the marriage and issue the marriage certificate. Do check whether your local Anglican Church is willing and able to conduct the marriage ceremony for you. Do not assume that the Church you would like your marriage to be conducted in, will automatically agree to do so.
Notice of your intention to marry will be published. Once you give notice of your intention to marry, the wedding should usually take place within 28 days either in a Civil Ceremony in the Registry Office or other place authorised to conduct a civil marriage ceremony, or a religious ceremony at a church, or other registered religious building registered to conduct religious marriage ceremonies.
Before attending to give your ‘notice’ of intention/wish to marry at your local register office or Anglican Church that has agreed to conduct the ceremony, check what documents and information is required by them. Usually, they will need to see evidence of who you are and where you live so do provide proof of your name, age place of residence and nationality. Check if photo ID is required.
The Home Office has an approved list of approved premises registered to conduct civil marriages and civil partnerships:
Before the wedding preparations and applying for a wedding date, do check with an Immigration lawyer if a visa will be required and how long it will take to get a visa if either of you is not a British citizen or you wish relatives from abroad to attend.
It is important to establish the validity of any proposed wedding ceremony and whether it will be recognised in the country you intend to live in as a married couple.
The law applicable in this article is that in England and Wales. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information in this article, it does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. The writer does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising as a result of reliance upon the information given.