At AFG LAW we understand that domestic abuse takes many forms and can include a variety of harmful practices.
If you are worried about being forced into a marriage, have been forced into a marriage or wish to protect someone else from being forced into marriage, our solicitors can help. Our solicitors have also been involved in proceedings for forced marriage protection orders from a wider context, for example, when they are made by the Local Authority as part of care proceedings. We know that forced marriage can happen to both females and males although it mainly affects females. We also understand that over a third of victims of forced marriage are 17 years old or under and as a harmful practice it mainly affects women under the age of 30. We recognise that it can be linked to other harmful practices like ‘honour’ based violence and if a person is forced into marriage the abuse they suffer is unlikely to stop there, they are likely to experience domestic abuse as well.
What is Forced Marriage?
The Government defines Forced Marriage as:
A Forced Marriage is where one or both people do not (or in cases of people with learning disabilities or reduced capacity, cannot) consent to the marriage as they are pressurised, or abuse is used, to force them to do so”.
Forced Marriage is illegal in the UK as everyone has the right to make their own decisions about who and when they marry. If you are being threatened, pressured, or abused into entering a marriage you should inform the police immediately as they can provide urgent protection and refer you to specialist support organisations.
When considering a Forced Marriage protection order the court will say someone (A) has been forced into marriage if another person (B) forces A to enter into a marriage (whether with B or another person) without A’s free and full consent.
What can a solicitor do to help me protect myself against forced marriage?
The Forced Marriage Act 2007 introduced forced marriage protection orders. The orders are designed to protect a person from being forced into a marriage or a person who has already been forced into a marriage. Our domestic abuse solicitors can help you apply to the Family Court for a Forced Marriage Protection Order if you are at risk of forced marriage.
Do I have to go to court?
If you make an application for a Forced Marriage protection order you will have to attend court but our solicitors will make sure that you are supported. There are different measures that the court can take to enable you to take part in proceedings comfortably and give the best evidence. Our guide can provide you more information.
What does the court look at when making a forced marriage protection order?
When a court is asked to make a Forced Marriage protection order, and is thinking about whether, and how, it should make an order the Judge hearing the case must have regard to all of the circumstances including the need to secure the health, safety and well-being of the person to be protected. When assessing the well-being of the person the Judge must have regard to the person’s wishes and feelings, as far as they can be ascertained, in light of their age and understanding.
What kind of behaviour will the court take into account when considering if someone is being forced into marriage?
‘Force’ includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and being coerced by threats or other psychological means. It can also include economic abuse. A wide view will be taken and the court will accept behaviour that is directed at the person who is being forced into marriage and also behaviour directed at another person; e.g. a threat that something will happen to a family member if you don’t get married.
What protection can a Forced Marriage protection order offer?
The court can make final orders in Forced Marriage protection order proceedings that offer a wide range of protection including stopping people from:
- Forcing, attempting to force or otherwise instructing or encouraging any other person to force the person to be protected to undergo any ceremony (or purported ceremony) of marriage, civil partnership, betrothal or engagement;
- Instructing or otherwise encouraging the person to be protected to undergo any ceremony (or purported ceremony) of marriage, civil partnership, betrothal or engagement;
- Facilitating, allowing or otherwise permitting the person to be protected to undergo any ceremony (or purported ceremony) of marriage, civil partnership, betrothal or engagement;
- Using or threatening violence against the person to be protected or otherwise instructing or encouraging any other person to do so;
- Intimidating, harassing or pestering the person to be protected or otherwise instructing or encouraging any other person to do so;
- Removing, seeking to remove or instructing or encouraging any other person to remove the person to be protected from the jurisdiction of England and Wales;
- Leaving the jurisdiction of England and Wales
The court may also order that the travel documents (passport and ID cards) of the individual who needs protecting are surrendered to that person’s solicitor for safe keeping where there is threat that the individual would have been taken abroad to take part in a Forced Marriage.
Do I have to tell the people I need protection from that I am applying for a Forced Marriage protection order?
There are two different ways you can make an application for a Forced Marriage protection order; on notice or without notice.
Forced Marriage protection orders can be made without notice to the person who is trying to force someone to marry but only when the court considers it is just and convenient to make the order without notice. The court must consider whether there is any risk of significant harm if the order is not made immediately, whether the person applying for the order might be deterred or prevented from applying for an order if an order isn’t made immediately and whether the person who will be prevented from forcing someone to marry would ‘disappear’ to stop an order being served or the delay would be prejudicial. Our solicitors can give you advice about the different parts to the test and how they believe you might meet them if you feel you need to make an application without notice. We understand the importance of trying to get protection in place as quickly as possible.
If a court decides that it is appropriate to make a Forced Marriage protection order without notice it will arrange a return date so that there can be an on notice hearing with everyone who is involved in the proceedings being present. A final order will only be made if a hearing has taken place with notice to everyone involved, even if they choose not to attend. The court has to balance the need for protection against the other person’s right to a fair trial and we do not have a system that allows final orders to be made without people knowing about the proceedings, that is why if an order is made which provides immediate protection there still needs to be another hearing allowing everyone the chance to attend.
What happens if a Forced Marriage protection order is breached?
Our solicitors will make sure a copy of the forced marriage protection order, and proof it has been served upon the relevant people, is sent to the forced marriage unit and the police. If someone does something they are prevented from doing by a forced marriage protection order this is called a ‘breach’. If someone has breached a forced marriage protection order it can be dealt with by either the Family Court who made the order or the criminal court system. A breach of a forced marriage protection order is a criminal offence which is punishable by up to 5 years in prison, the Family Court has different powers to deal with a breach of an order. It is more complicated to apply to the Family Court to deal with a breach and the police and criminal justice system are set up to be able to deal with breaches, most people report breaches to the police as they can act quickly and provide immediate support.
How do I end a Forced Marriage?
This will depend on several different factors and our solicitors will need to carefully discuss this with you to decide which route is available to you. Our solicitors are able to offer you advice about divorce or annulment.