ASK A FAMILY LAWYER
In this regular column, Stowe Family Law solicitors answer readers’ questions on different legal issues. Today’s query goes to Angela Sussens, a Partner in our Leeds office.
“My friend is planning to marry a lady from Thailand in her country and then settling back in England with her. How do we make sure the marriage will be recognised over here?”
Getting married or entering a civil partnership abroad is much more commonplace these days than it used to be. It is easy to get lost in the excitement of pending nuptials and to overlook the need to ensure that all formalities are complied with, whether you are marrying abroad or in England. Each country has its own set of laws and procedural regulations that must be complied with to ensure that the marriage or civil partnership is valid and will be recognised in this country.
So it is important if you are planning to get married abroad that you have a full understanding of what procedural requirements must be complied with in good time before the ceremony. It is recommended that you contact the local authorities in Thailand (or whichever other country in which you may be planning to marry or enter a civil partnership), and find out just what you need to do. You may need to obtain official documents from the UK Government prior to your departure in order to proceed with the marriage overseas so it is important that you properly research what is needed before you get on the plane.
But provided you follow the correct procedure according to local law, the marriage or civil partnership should be recognised in the UK. Generally, English law recognises foreign marriages as long as they meet the following criteria:
- The ceremony must comply with the law of where the marriage takes place.
- Each party must have the capacity to enter into the marriage according to the law of the country in which they lived before the marriage.
- Any previous marriage of either party must firstly have been validly terminated – i.e. they must be legally divorced if they have previously married.
Getting married in England and Wales
But what about back home? To legally marry in England and Wales, it is necessary to adhere to the following regulations:
- You must give notice at your local register office.
- You must have a religious or civil ceremony, usually at least 28 days after giving notice, although there are some instances when the notice period can be reduced.
Following the ceremony, the parties, and two witnesses, are required to sign the marriage register or civil partnership document. Thereafter, it is necessary to register the marriage or civil partnership. A copy of the marriage or civil partnership certificate should be retained to prove your marital status in the future, although copies can be obtained if required.
Angela Sussens joined Stowe Family Law as a trainee solicitor back in 2004 and qualified in 2006. She has demonstrated an aptitude for all aspects of family law, and in particular financial settlements on divorce. Angela regularly acts on behalf of high net worth clients in complex cases involving foreign jurisdictions, trusts, companies and offshore assets.