Married at First Sight UK – Are they really married and does it matter?

Married at First Sight first hit TV screens in 2015 and for the first 5 series the couples were legally married. However, after adopting the Australian (more entertaining) format last year the couples no longer get legally married. Here,  Lisa Brown looks at the implications involved with marrying a stranger and what the law requires of legally married couples.

Nevertheless, much has been made in the recent series (7) about the fact that the parties are “married”. It all starts with the individuals dropping the bombshell on their loved ones that they are getting “married to a stranger” and when Whitney and Matt coupled up the criticism came thick and fast based on the fact that they were “married” to other people.

For the purposes of the show perhaps it doesn’t matter because the point is that they buy into the principle but legally it makes a very big difference.

Being married is a change to your legal status and if things don’t work out you have to apply to the court to either have that marriage annulled or get divorced.

Further, when couples get married, they gain the ability to make a financial claim against the other person under Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.

One of the peculiarities of the law as it stands is that a couple could live together for 25 years but not be able to make a financial claim against each other (save in limited circumstances) but somebody can get legally married at first sight, never live together and divorce as soon as they can and they would be able to make a claim. That claim could include property being transferred to them, a share of the other’s pension, a lump sum of money being paid and /or monthly sums being paid (spousal maintenance).

In “Married At First Sight” circumstances the reality is that it is unlikely that such a claim would be particularly fruitful and generally the expectation would be that they would exit the marriage with what they brought in but the ability to do it remains.

The Matrimonial Causes Act sets out at section 25 a checklist of factors which are taken into account when deciding the outcome of a financial claim. One of those factors is the duration of the marriage but there are a number of others and the family court has a wide discretion.

Whilst not relevant to the Married At First Sight couples it is also worth knowing that the court will generally “run in” periods of seamless cohabitation prior to the marriage when considering the length. So, if, as in the above example, you lived together for 25 years and then you got married it is likely that the court would consider it to be a long marriage even if you separated just weeks after the actual marriage. This scenario could make a huge difference to the financial outcome of a case.

Arguably, most couples getting married are largely ignorant of the changes they are entering into from a legal perspective and Married At First Sight doesn’t assist with this (not least because no matter what they say the couples aren’t actually married). Some people may also think they have rights they do not because they have lived together for a certain period of time, but no such rights exist and “common law marriage” is a myth.

Whilst not the most romantic thought people should consider their legal status in their relationship and the impact that this can have to ensure that they are properly protected and have a full understanding.

If you or somebody you know wants to understand their legal position better whether they are cohabiting, thinking about cohabiting, engaged or married they should contact one of our specialist family lawyers today.


Bass Warehouse
4 Castle Street
M3 4LZ


If your enquiry is urgent please call

+44 (0)333 202 6433