Wednesday, 10 June 2009


After hearing evidence and watching the DVD of the wedding of Gillian Hudson and Robert Leigh in South Africa, Mr Justice Bodey sitting in the High Court commented that it was a splendid and romantic ceremony. Apparently it took place on a rooftop complete with priest, full wedding trousseau, well dressed guests and the sea as a perfect backdrop. The Judge however ruled last week that nevertheless the couple were not married.

It seems that, sense of occasion apart, the couple, who had also intended to have a civil ceremony in Chiswick Register Office, separated before they could get there and the format of the ceremony they undertook was insufficient for the court to determine the existence of a valid contract of marriage. Unfortunately for Miss Hudson that means that she cannot divorce Mr Leigh and her financial claims against him are now essentially limited to support for their child and not for her.

Weddings have changed greatly over recent years with many no longer held in church but at non-traditional venues such as hotels, stately homes and even football pitches. This trend for personalising weddings has been fuelled by TV shows, such as “Gavin and Stacey”, where, as part of the ceremony, characters have quoted their own declarations of love to demonstrate the depth of their feelings.

In olden times it was accepted that jumping over the broom together was sufficient to form a common-law marriage. In England today all marriages must conform to statute law and the idea of a common law marriage is a myth. You can jump over the broom with whomever you choose, in as many romantic settings as you want but, at the end of the day if the necessary formalities are not complied with, you remain unmarried in law.

Furthermore if you are not married and your relationship breaks down, financial claims are severely limited, if not non-existent. That’s why
Resolution continues to campaign for a change in the law in this area

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