When is a marriage not a marriage?

This may seem like an unusual question however some couples who choose to have a religious ceremony at their place of worship may in fact not be legally married if there is either no Registrar from the Registry Office present or the place of worship is not a registered place of worship. If the marriage is not valid than this can lead to some unfortunate consequences if they later split up.

Up until 1995 it was difficult to get married anywhere other than registered places of worship or a registry office. There are a number of different requirements depending on the type of wedding which takes place. Some people have assumed that they were married because they were presented with a certificate after a ceremony however if a Registrar or other Authorised person was not in attendance or the ceremony did not take place in a registered place of worship then the marriage may not have satisfied legal requirements.

Unfortunately in such cases the couple would be treated as a cohabiting couple which would mean the normal provisions dealing with division of property and assets on divorce would not apply. For example if one of the partners owned a property and the other had not made any financial contribution to the property it would be much more difficult for the person whose name was not on the deeds to make a claim against such a property.

If the couple have had children then it may be possible for the partner who has the children living with them to make an application for financial relief for the benefit of the children to pursue an application under schedule 1 of the Children’s Act 1989 for financial relief.

If you are in this situation or require any advice regarding property ownership following separation from a partner please contact Sarah Spence on 01162628596 or at sarah.spence@dodds-solicitors.co.uk