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Marriage at first sight

| Published on August 5, 2015

Marriage at first sight

Whatever the statistics about marriage and divorce rates, and whether more couples are cohabiting than marrying, marriage is still considered an institution.  However the recent “Marriage at First Sight” program has prompted discussions about the reasons for entering into a marriage, and perhaps more importantly the consequences of marrying.

When you marry, you are giving your spouse certain rights.  These can include automatic inheritance rights (up to a limit) if you have not made a will should you die; usually being your next of kin; and on separation/divorce, a right for your spouse to claim against your financial assets.

On Marriage at First Sight, out of the three couples picked to marry, one couple did not go through with it, one couple stayed together, and one couple split up.

The interesting questions from a legal perspective are whether the two couples who married entered into a pre-nuptial agreement to protect their assets if the marriage failed?  Whilst a pre-nuptial is still not completely legally binding in England and Wales, if entered into freely, with disclosure given, and completed usually at least a month before the wedding, it is something the courts are now prepared to hold couples to unless the terms of the pre-nup are completely unfair.

Could the couple who separated get a divorce? Well not in the first year of marriage.  There is a bar on obtaining a divorce until you have been married a year.  What about an annulment?  This can be obtained within a year of the marriage, but only if

  • it has not been consummated due to incapacity of a party or wilful refusal;
  • there was lack of consent to the marriage;
  • either party was suffering from a mental disorder;
  • an interim gender recognition certificate was issued to a party after the marriage;
  • at the time of marriage, the Respondent was suffering from venereal disease;
  • at the time of marriage, the Respondent was pregnant by someone other than the Petitioner.

However an annulment unlike a divorce, requires a hearing in open court as to the grounds of the annulment before an annulment would be granted.  A divorce does not require a hearing, and is dealt with in private.  Even if you annul your marriage on the above grounds, the marriage is treated as a valid marriage and therefore a party to an annulled marriage can make a financial claim against the other.

So the question is should couples marry for a tv program given the legal rights which arise when you get married?  Did the couples have legal advice on the implications of their marriage as well as undergoing all the tests which were set up to see if they were compatible?

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