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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » Legal status of non-consummated marriage?

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Author Topic: Legal status of non-consummated marriage?
mizchastain
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I don't have any intentions of getting married for a long time, if ever, but I was thinking about this and I'm curious. I remember hearing that under English law, a marriage which is not consummated within one year is automatically annulled. I Googled and found a conservative Christian site objecting to David Cameron's plans to remove this requirement, but I couldn't find if it has been removed. The site in question objected because gay marriages can't be "consummated" in the manner they consider traditional and they considered removing the requirement an endorsement of gay marriage. I won't go into that here myself because I'm not articulate enough, but I was concerned about marriages between asexuals (like me and my boyfriend). Simply not telling anyone the marriage wasn't consummated would be the most obvious option, but one's doctor might have to know.

I'm curious as to what people think. Are there similar laws elsewhere?

Posts: 475 | From: UK | Registered: Jan 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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To my knowledge, policies like this, when places have had them, have always been about someone IN the marriage reporting this as a means to get an annulment or divorce.

In other words, this isn't about a doctor reporting a couple hasn't had sex (which, btw, would be a total violation of healthcare privacy laws and policies). Or anyone else. rather, this was (or still is) about people in the marriage itself who chose to report lack of sex as a reason to end the marriage.

I personally have no idea about where these policies exist, alas, and what the finer points of them are. Marriage and marriage laws simply aren't anything I work with (and tend to do my best to avoid unless absolutely necessary).

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Posts: 68290 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Redskies
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I'll open by saying that I don't know all that much about legal stuff; I just often read and remember "small print".

As far as I understand, mizchastain, you're part right and part wrong about English law on this. You're absolutely right that the law allows for a marriage to be annulled - that is, legally making it as if it never existed - due to non-consummation. However, this is absolutely not something that happens automatically. One person in the marriage would have to apply for an annulment, and then a judge would have to agree to grant one. There are some circumstances in which a marriage is automatically considered never to have existed (eg, if one person was still legally married or partnered to someone else), but non-consummation is definitely not one of those things. Even if everyone official in the entire country knew and could prove that a marriage had never been consummated, that marriage is still fully legal.

If there is any rule about time with this, it would be a minimum period of time before one could file for an annulment - but I don't remember there being a definitive rule on time with this.

One thing where consideration of what is and isn't a valid marriage may be different is in various religious institutions. I know very little about this, but have vague memories of at least some Christian denominations believing that a marriage is only valid if it's been consummated. As mizchastian refers to above, that's also one plank in some people's arguments against marriage equality - that it can't be a marriage if it can't be consummated by vagina-penis sex. Some of these folk make clear and explicit exceptions for cases where consummation is impossible in a woman-man partnership (through physical disability, for example), some um and ah about it and prefer not to mention it, and a few make no exception.

As far as I know, whether any church or denomination recognises something as a marriage has no bearing on how the law recognises it.

And, may as well, here's what a government resource has to say about the matter http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Governmentcitizensandrights/Divorceseparationandrelationshipbreakdown/Endingamarriageorcivilpartnership/Annullingamarriage/DG_193751

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

Posts: 1786 | From: Europe | Registered: Sep 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Redskies
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Just additionally to the above, I did a bit of digging to confirm.

I think I probably got the same article through google that you did, mizchastain. As far as I can tell from checking various official sources elsewhere, the googled article and the Sun article it links to and quotes are completely wrong. The Sun says "Ministers plan to ditch the requirement for newlyweds to consummate their union. The rules say a marriage is not complete until a man and wife have “ordinary and complete” intercourse." and the catholic site says "...remove the requirement for sexual consummation from UK marriage law..."

This is exceptionally poor reporting, and completely wrong. There is NO "requirement" in UK marriage law for a marriage to be consummated. I have no idea where the Sun found the rules it's referring to, because in English or Scottish law, they don't exist.(I should say, that's from all the standard official info about the rules for marriage. Who knows with the law whether there's some peculiar, ancient and ignored obscure law about anything, but I reckon if there was any law that actually meant anything, it'd be in the official information. Anyone who truly needs to know, ask a lawyer.) These publications have got it completely wrapped round their necks.

What there Is is a statement in Canon Law, which relates to the Catholic Church and Not to the law of England or Scotland. It seems that ordinary believers can't agree about exactly what their religion does and does not count as a valid marriage; I don't know whether there's consensus among experts, and I have no wish to try to find out, as these people's opinions on this make me feel ill both as a queer person and a disabled person.

Edit: Oops, I realise that how I put this might make some users who have faith uncomfortable. Please know that although I personally am not a fan of most organised religion in general, I support individual people's religious beliefs and recognise that many people use their beliefs for good. I know that religion in no way automatically implies prejudice, and it upsets me when people use religion to justify prejudice and discrimination.

[ 09-07-2012, 10:25 AM: Message edited by: Redskies ]

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

Posts: 1786 | From: Europe | Registered: Sep 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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