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Married at First Sight… divorced at second?

Channel 4's hit series Married at First Sight has returned to our screens with millions of viewers hoping that the newlyweds – who first set eyes on…

Channel 4's hit series Married at First Sight has returned to our screens with millions of viewers hoping that the newlyweds – who first set eyes on each other when walking down aisle – will find true love until death do them part.

The couples, who have been paired up through an intensive process by a sex and relationship therapist, a psychologist, an evolutionary anthropologist and a vicar, have five weeks after their wedding to decide if they want to make a go of things. So, what happens if things don’t work out for the happy couple?

Matthew Taylor, solicitor in the family team at Weightmans, runs through the options:

"While instinctively many people may assume that the newlyweds can divorce after five weeks if the newlyweds find out that married life isn’t for them, section 3(1) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 makes clear that it is not actually possible to petition for divorce in England and Wales within the first year of marriage.

"Following the first anniversary of the marriage, either the husband or wife could then issue a divorce petition. Sadly, and despite many years of family lawyers lobbying government, we do not yet have a no-fault divorce regime yet in this country and therefore the petitioner would need to rely upon either the unreasonable behaviour or adultery of the other party in their petition.

"The other option potentially open to the couple is to apply for an annulment of the marriage. Unlike with divorce, there is no minimum time limit for an annulment. There are various grounds for an annulment, including one of the parties having a sexually transmitted disease or the woman being pregnant by another person at the time of the marriage, but the most likely possibility for the Married at First Sight newlyweds would be that the marriage was never consummated.

"Of course with the parties having been married it does open up the possibility that one of them could apply to the court for financial provision to be made to them by the other – this applies whether there has been a divorce or an annulment. However, it would be extraordinarily unlikely that a marriage lasting just 5 weeks could give rise to any substantive claims. Nevertheless, the couples should be advised to enter into a financial order by consent, dismissing any claims against each other for the avoidance of doubt.

"But, as an avid viewer and hopeless romantic, I will be watching with my fingers crossed for Clarke and Melissa, Adam and Caroline, and the rest of the participants on the programme in the hope that the matches work out and none of the above proves necessary!"