6 Jun 2017

Married Twice to the Same Person? Subsequent Ceremonies with unintended consequences

We all have friends who have had a destination wedding then returned home for a second ceremony, or who have had both a civil ceremony and a religious ceremony, or who are the hopeless romantics that renew their wedding vows.

Why is this a topic for a family lawyer to discuss? Because, putting the romance aside, couples having two wedding ceremonies need to consider the possible legal ramifications that the second ceremony can have. This was recently considered by the Family Court in the case of Anouihl and Temke [2017] FamCA 325 (8 May 2017).

 

In Anouihl and Temke’s case the following occurred:

  • In 2008, the couple were married in a civil ceremony.
  • In 2009, the couple had a religious marriage ceremony.
  • Despite the fact Ms Temke informed the religious celebrant of their civil marriage, the religious celebrant forwarded documentation for the registration of the marriage to the New South Wales Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
  • The filing of the documentation by the religious celebrant meant that second marriage was registered in breach of the Marriage Act (1961) (Cth).
  • In seeking a Divorce, the parties went to the Family Court and obtained a declaration that the second marriage was invalid.

A subsequently registered marriage like Anouihl and Temke’s, becomes significant when the relationship breaks down and parties attempt to resolve their financial matters.  When the Family Court is determining financial matters, it considers many factors including the length of the marriage, the property brought into and the contributions made throughout the marriage. Where a subsequent marriage has been registered one party may seek to argue that it is the latter ceremony which was the valid marriage date in an attempt to shorten the length of the marriage to be considered. This approach may be used in an attempt to preserve the assets from before the subsequent marriage ceremony.

However, Anouihl and Temke’s case is unusual as the law does contemplate that second ceremonies are not always intended to be legal marriages. Section 113 of the Marriage Act 1961 expressly deals with the legalities of second ceremonies. Particularly, if a couple is already married they are not allowed to go through another marriage ceremony together. In addition, Celebrants are expressly prohibited from solemnising marriages where the parties are already legally married to each other.

There is provision for married couples to have subsequent religious ceremonies under section 113(5) of the Marriage Act, where it expressly allows couples to have a religious ceremony after legally marrying, on the condition that the couple document the previous marriage properly to the Celebrant. The celebrant is then not to prepare any certificate of marriage, preventing the Celebrant from committing an offence in marrying a married couple.

Ultimately, Anouihl and Temke’s second marriage is an anomaly as the issue would not have arisen if the religious celebrant had not registered the second marriage. However, the case is a reminder to properly consider the formal nature of wedding ceremonies when considering getting married overseas, renewing your wedding vows or having both civil and religious ceremonies.

This is general information only, and does not constitute specific legal advice. If you would like further information in relation to this matter or other legal matters please contact our office on Freecall 1800 609 945 or email us now.

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