Everybody loves a good wedding and it is a time to celebrate and get together with friends and family and look forward to the future.  It is however very important that the wedding ceremony is legally recognised and valid in the country where it takes place.

If the formalities have not been completed properly a couple could find that their wedding day is just a very big party and not actually the day that they became Husband and Wife.  This could have serious detrimental financial consequences should the relationship turn sour or in the event of the death of one of the parties.  It can also effect the Father’s parental responsibility for the child.  If the parties are unmarried the Father will not have automatic parental responsibility for the child.  He can only obtain parental responsibility with the other parents consent or by a Court Order.

Today many people live in England but chose to marry abroad.  If so they ask if they can then Divorce in England.  The answer to that question is yes providing the wedding was conducted in accordance with laws of the country where the marriage takes place so as to make the marriage valid in the country at that time.

Where parties are living in England and want the wedding to take place here it has to be conducted in accordance with the formalities under English law.  If the wedding was conducted in a place which is not recognised as being one that is registered to carry out valid marriages or if the ceremony was conducted by an unauthorised official then the marriage will not be recognised as valid in England.

Parties must comply with the Marriage Act 1949 otherwise the marriage may be void.


The following are very important considerations:-

  1. Both parties intending to marry should be of a legal age to marry, which is 16 in England with parental consent and 18 without parental consent.
  2. Both parties must enter into the marriage of their own free will.  Neither party intending to marry should feel forced or under any pressure to marry.
  3. The parties should be free to marry i.e. should be single, divorced or widowed.  Where someone is divorced they have to their Decree Absolute document to show the validity of their Divorce.  Where someone is widowed they have to obtain the death certificate of their previous spouse.  Where one party is still married but then conducts another marriage ceremony they are guilty of a criminal offence known as bigamy.
  4. The parties must not be closely related or related in a way prohibited by the Marriage Act 1949.
  5. At the ceremony the parties must exchange some form of formal wording known as ‘vows’.  The wedding ceremony has to be conducted in front of two witnesses who understand what they are witnessing and have the mental capacity to understand.
  6. The parties who have married and the two witnesses sign the register and there is a fee payable for the wedding ceremony and also for the marriage certificate.


In situations where one spouse is living abroad it is very important to check with an immigration lawyer if a visa is required and how long it will take to get a visa.

Where there are problems with the legal formalities surrounding the marriage a petition for nullity can be presented.  Once nullity decree is granted the marriage is treated as if it never existed.

The effect of a decree of nullity for void marriages will mean that although the marriage has never existed, financial, pension and property orders can be applied for under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.  Children will be regarded as legitimate.

Nullity petitions are rare these days but if you are intending to marry abroad or in an unusual place or have an unusual ceremony it is obviously essential to check that at the end of the day when you walk down the aisle with your new spouse you are actually married.


If there are any queries in relation to nullity then please contact me. You can reach me on 01205 311511.


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