3 March 2017

Marriages abroad – make the dream a legal reality

All young couples envisage their dream wedding – perhaps set in an exotic location, on a golden sandy beach, the waves lapping against the shoreline, palm trees swaying gently in the ocean breeze, a 5 star hotel for the honeymoon and every luxury…

Overseas weddings are big business as far as the tour operators are concerned as couples try to make their dream a reality, but that dream can quickly turn into a nightmare if you don’t make sure the legal niceties are in place.

The first priority for a legal wedding is to make sure that your marriage is in accordance with the law and custom of the country in question. So, if you are marrying on the beach in the Dominican Republic, then your marriage must be in accordance with the law and custom of the Dominican Republic.

So as well as finding the perfect spot, you also need to do your research to ensure that the marriage ceremony is lawful in the country where you are getting married.

You will also need to have a copy of the marriage certificate issued in the country where you married – this should be registered at the General Register Office when you come back to the UK.

It may seem obvious, but you must have a copy of the entry in the local marriage register certified by the appropriate authority in the foreign jurisdiction where they were married, together with an English translation. The General Registry Officer will need to be satisfied that the certificate or extract is authentic and the translation accurate.

If these simple precautionary steps are taken, newly-weds can then settle down to married – and legal – wedded bliss in England and Wales. Celebrities Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall experienced some of the problems which skipping these steps can create – despite being together for many years, when they split up, it was clear that their marriage had not been lawful. They came to their own settlement, but such a problem could severely limit future claims.

Experienced family lawyer Kevin Harris-James, who leads Harrison Clark Rickerbys family team in Birmingham and Worcester, said: “Taking the time to sort out the legalities before you are swept off your feet by the dream will make all the difference later, and you can take your first steps in married life confident that your new life has firm foundations.”

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About the Author
Kevin Harris-James, Partner, Head of Birmingham Office
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