Linda Hunter, Head of Family Law at Rowlinsons Solicitors provides answers to some of the more unusual questions she gets from client’s about divorce.
Is my marriage legal in the UK if I got married abroad?
If you are a British Citizen, but get married abroad, your marriage should be recognised in the UK provided that you followed the correct procedure for a legal and valid marriage in the country you got married in, and your marriage would be allowed under UK law.
Most countries have different rules about what constitutes a valid, legal marriage. It is important that wherever you get married, you follow the rules of that country if you want your marriage to be recognised in the UK. If in doubt, check with the local authorities about what you need to do to get legally married.
Even if you have followed the rules closely, some marriages will still not be recognised in the UK. To get married, or form a civil partnership, you must be:
- 16 or over
- Free to marry or form a civil partnership (i.e. single, divorced or widowed)
- Not closely related
Can I get divorced in the UK if I got married abroad?
To get divorced in England and Wales you firstly have to have been married for at least 12 months, and have a valid marriage that is legally recognised in this country.
It is then necessary to prove to the Court that you have the necessary “jurisdiction” to petition in a court in England and Wales:-
- You and your spouse are habitually resident here
- You and your spouse were last habitually resident here and one of you still resides here
- Your spouse is habitually resident here
- The person issuing the petition is habitually resident here and has resided here for at least a year immediately before presenting the petition
- The person issuing the petition is domiciled and habitually resident here and has resided here for at least 6 months before presenting the petition
- Both you and your spouse are domiciled in England and Wales (only relevant to marriage)
If none of the above applies, you might be able to issue a petition for divorce in England and Wales if no other Court has or is recognised as having “jurisdiction”.
Can I get divorced if I have lost my marriage certificate?
In most situations, you do need an original marriage certificate to get divorced in the UK. If you got married in England or Wales, it is sometimes possible to request a further copy be reissued if you can’t find your original certificate.
If you got married abroad, it might be possible to get a further copy issued, and you would need to seek guidance from the local authority that conducted the wedding ceremony or registered the marriage.
If your marriage certificate is not in English, you will also need to get a copy fully translated into English before you can issue your divorce petition.
If you cannot find your marriage certificate, it might be possible to still apply for divorce in some situations. You would however need to issue a separate application alongside your divorce petition. It is rare that the Court would allow a petition for divorce without a valid marriage certificate, and you would need expert legal advice before pursuing such an application.
What is the divorce between annulment and divorce?
Both annulment and divorce are ways to legally end a marriage. There are however a number of key differences between the two.
With a divorce, you have to wait until you have been married for at least 1 year before being able to apply. You also have to satisfy the Court that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, and one of 5 facts can be proven, which are:-
- Adultery (with someone of the opposite sex)
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Two years’ separation with consent
- Five years’ separation
An annulment can be applied for earlier than 1 year after the date of marriage, however the longer you wait after the date of marriage you might have to prove to the Court why there has been a delay. You also have to prove that the marriage was not valid, using one of two options:-
- A void marriage – in situations where the marriage itself is not legally valid. This may be for example because the parties to the marriage are closely related, one or both parties were under 16 at the time, or one of the parties was already married at the time. If the marriage is considered void, it is as if it never happened.
- A voidable marriage – in situations where the marriage was not consummated, one party did not properly consent to the marriage, one party had a sexually transmitted disease at the time of the marriage, or the woman was pregnant by another man on the date of the marriage. In any one of these situations, you may be able to apply to annul the marriage.