A three minute marriage – How soon can I get divorced?

Rumours are circulating online about a couple in Kuwait who were married for a grand total of three minutes. Here, McAlister Family Law’s Heather Lucy looks at how this can happen and whether it would be legally possible in England and Wales.

A three-minute marriage? How is that possible? Apparently, the couple were married in front of a judge and, when they were leaving the courtroom, the bride stumbled. Instead of helping her, the groom mocked her, and the (rightfully?) angry bride asked the court to immediately bring their marriage to an end. The judge agreed and their marriage was dissolved. This may be an urban legend being spread on the internet, but it does pose the question of whether it would be possible to do the same in England and Wales.

In England and Wales, it is not possible to make an application for divorce until you have been married for 12 months. You then have to wait a further 20 weeks from when the court issues your application to become eligible for a conditional order which is the next step in bringing your marriage to an end. This cooling off period may feel unnecessary if you separated less than a year into your marriage but it is almost impossible to dispense with it.

The conditional order is a key step in your divorce. It means that the court are satisfied that you and your partner can be divorced (and you are able to apply for the final order 6 weeks and a day later), and it allows them to make orders about financial matters. This is often a key concern for people who are separating, and they are keen to have the certainty of a final order in place.

If you split up with your partner before a year has passed, then either one of you (or both of you together) might choose to apply to the court for a judicial separation order. These orders are also sometimes sought by people who may not want to divorce for religious reasons but who do want to separate.

It is key to note that a judicial separation order is different to a divorce. One important point is that being judicially separated does not mean that you are legally single and therefore you cannot remarry. Further, a divorce will impact any pre-existing wills and is relevant to the order of inheritance under intestacy laws, but you are still married if you are judicially separated so you will need to think carefully about reviewing your will.

If you judicially separate from your partner, you can apply to the court for a financial order. The range of powers open to the court differs from those available under divorce. The court cannot make a Pension Sharing Order if you are judicially separated and there can be no ‘clean break’ in respect of your finances. You can record that you and your partner intend to get divorced after a year has elapsed and that there should be a clean break order then, but this is not binding.

If you have been married for less than a year and want to legally separate from your partner, then it would be sensible to speak to a specialist family lawyer who can discuss your individual circumstances with you and set out your options moving forward.

If you or someone you know is affected by the issues raised in this blog post, we can provide you with expert legal advice. For more information, please get in touch with our specialist team at hello@mcalisterfamilylaw.co.uk


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