Man's forced marriage tests family law

Date: Jul 12, 2011

A man tested the the definitions of duress in court after filing to have his brief marriage of six months annulled.

The man described being involved in a turbulent "on again, off again" relationship with his girlfriend since 2004.

This included six months where the couple were living together.

When the man approached his partner with intent of breaking up, she told him she was pregnant with his child.

The man told the court that the woman refused to have an abortion "unless you marry me".

"I felt ... there was nothing I could do," the man told the court.

Under family law in Australia, a marriage can be declared invalid if either party can show that they were forced into the union under duress - regardless of whether or not a ceremony has taken place.

A court can also declare a marriage invalid include if one or both of the parties were married at the time of the union, or if they were under 18 and did not have the necessary approvals.

Decrees of nullity differs from divorce in that they may be applied for without requiring the parties involved to be separated for twelve months prior.

Prior to filing for a declaration of nullity, individuals should seek family law advice from a professional provider.

This union was dissolved by Justice Peter Rose after he confirmed that duress had been established.

The judge stated he had reached the conclusion "with some hesitation."

A similar judgement was issued in February. Judge Paul Cronin presided over a case regarding the arranged marriage of a young Melbourne women.

In this case a declaration of nullity was issued after the judge found that the conditions surrounding the arranged marriage made it invalid, as the woman was not truly free to consent.

To have a marriage declared null, an Initiating Application needs to be filed with the court.

This is followed by preparing an affidavit of the facts and details surrounding the union, as well as the serving of the legal documents to the other party.

Serving the documents cannot be done by the partner seeking the declaration. It must be done either through the postal service or by a trusted third party.

A third party includes professionals such as a family lawyer or trusted friend.

The person serving the papers needs to be able to identify the partner to the court to ensure the required documents have been provided to the right person.