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Getting married abroad…is your marriage valid at home?

18 Nov 2021

According to statistics, between around 1 in 5 of all marriages now takes place abroad, with couples increasingly wishing to elude the unpredictable English weather and the pressure of inviting distant relatives to large and costly weddings at home.

However, if you do choose to marry abroad, you shouldn’t just focus on the beautiful location, as the case of Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall reminds us. In 1999, when Hall petitioned for divorce from Jagger, he famously contested that they were never legally married as their ceremony in Bali was not official. To avoid this kind of uncertainty, what steps should you take to make sure you marriage is legal in the UK?

Firstly, it’s important to realise that the validity of your marriage is governed primarily by the country in which you marry not the country where you live. You must therefore comply with the formal requirements of that country. You should contact the embassy or consulate of the country where you intend to marry before your wedding to find out what documentation you will need and what other formalities you need to follow. If you follow the correct process according to the local law, then your marriage stands the best chance of being recognised in the UK.

However, you still need to meet the legal requirements for marriage in your home country in so far as your capacity to marry is concerned. For example, you must be of the minimum age to marry legally according to your home country’s laws.

If you don’t follow these steps then you could risk not knowing whether you are legally married or not. This could affect how your assets are dealt with upon death. However, if before then you wish to divorce, it may be tricky proving to a judge that your marriage was ever valid – the risk is that if you were not validly married, you would not be entitled to all the financial remedies available on divorce, leaving you with an uncertain outcome. Furthermore, if you wish to re-marry, it’s important to make sure any previous marriage was properly ended – this can become a problem if you are unsure whether the previous marriage was in fact ever legal.

Written by

Alex Davies