Forced Marriages – What is a forced marriage? How can I get help?

Our family legal team at SMQ legal, based in Oxford, are well versed in the criminal implications as well as the family law procedural requirements when dealing with forced marriages.

A forced marriage is mostly known as a marriage of which one or both of the parties involved, do not, or cannot, consent to marriage. These kinds of marriages typically occur where one or both parties are pressured by families or their wider community to marry. In law, it is defined by s.63 A (4) of the Family Law Act 1996 which states that forced marriage is being “forced to enter into a marriage without one’s free and full consent”. Additionally, the person forcing the marriage does not have to be a third party, they can be one of the other parties in the marriage.

In the UK, those forced into marriages are protected by Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007, which introduced provisions into the Family Law Act 1996. These provisions protect a person:

  • From being forced into a marriage
  • From any attempt at being forced into a marriage
  • By providing assistance and protection if already in a forced marriage.

If a person seeks help under this act, they may be granted a Forced Marriages Protection Order (FMPO). When deciding whether or not to grant an FMPO, the courts will consider:

  • All the circumstances including the need to secure the health, safety and well-being of the one being protected (s.63 A (2), Family Law Act 1996)
  • Consider the wishes and feelings of the person to be protected so far as they are ascertainable and is appropriate to do so in the light of that person’s age and understanding (s.63 A (3), Family Law Act 1996).

It is important to note that there are three categories of people who can apply for a protection order of this kind including:

  • The victim/person who is to be protected (s.63 c(2)(a), Family Law Act 1996)
    • There is no age limit for a victim claiming one of these so a child can apply!
  • A relevant third party (s.63 c(2)(b) Family Law Act 1996)
    • These are specified by the Lord Chancellor
  • Local Authorities
    • As of November 2009, the Family Law Act 1996 (Forced Marriages) (Relevant Third Party) Order 2009 allowed this!

In the event that a FMPO is breached without reasonable excuse, the court can impose both a fine, not exceeding £5000 and a term of imprisonment, not exceeding 6 months.

In the UK there is protection for those who are forced into a marriage they have not consented to. We value our society on the ability to make our own choices and choosing who you marry, if you choose to marry, is an important decision to make yourself. No one should force you to decide this.

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