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Is Forced Marriage Legal? Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Forced Marriage?

A forced marriage is one that takes place without the full and free consent of both parties, either via physical force, psychological abuse, emotional pressure or threats. The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 states that the marriage can be made void on the grounds that it was conducted without the valid consent of one or both parties – this process is called an annulment, and is different from divorce.

Click here for more information about annulment of marriage

What is the difference between Forced and Arranged Marriage?

A clear legal distinction has been drawn by the courts between Forced and Arranged Marriage. In an Arranged Marriage families take the lead in selecting a marriage partner but the couple have the free will and choice to accept or decline the arrangement.

What is a Forced Marriage Protection Order?

A Forced Marriage Protection Order (FMPO) can help if you are being forced into marriage or are already in a forced marriage. The Court can make an order in an emergency so that protection is in place straightaway. Applications can also be made at the same time as a police investigation or other criminal proceedings and failure to comply can result in a criminal conviction leading to imprisonment of up to 5 years.

Where can I apply for an FMPO?

An application can be made at a number of designated Family Courts in England and Wales or at the High Court in London.

There is no court fee when applying for a Forced Marriage Protection Order.

Who can apply for an FMPO?

The person who is to be protected by the order, a relevant third party or any other person with the Court’s permission. Children do not need a ‘next friend’ or someone to assist them if they have a legal representative or the Court agrees.

If I don’t want to apply for an FMPO can I get further help?

You can contact the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) on 020 7008 0151. The FMU is a joint Foreign & Commonwealth Office/Home Office team providing practical support and information to people at risk of being forced into marriage and those already forced into marriage. The FMU can also help if you fear that you be taken to the country to get married against your will.

Government advice is also to call 999 in an emergency.
Forced Marriage Unit
From overseas: +44 (0)20 7008 0151
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm
Out of hours: 020 7008 5000

Can I apply for an FMPO myself?

Yes, but you must be prepared to complete the relevant forms and statements and explain your case to the court. Court staff can explain Court procedures, but they cannot provide legal advice on the merits of individual cases, or give advice about the probable outcome.

Victim of a Forced Marriage? Looking for experienced divorce solicitors?

If you are being forced into or are indeed already in a Forced Marriage, it is vital that you seek help from a specialist family law and divorce  solicitor at the earliest opportunity. Call us today.

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