Family Law Blog

Capacity to Marry

17 February 2013, by Taylor King Family Law Solicitors

In order for a marriage to be valid both parties must give their consent. Failure to give valid consent “whether in consequence of duress, mistake, unsoundness of mind or otherwise” will render the marriage voidable (section 12(c) Matrimonial Causes Act 1973).

In the recent case of Re SK [2013] EWHC 1990 (COP) Bodey J declared that a man in his 50s was not capable of understanding the implications of marriage and his marriage was therefore invalid. He stated that the man “did not have the capacity freely to decide to enter into a marriage”.

The man had resumed a relationship with his childhood sweetheart in 2007 but had suffered a brain injury in 2008 after being hit by a bus. The marriage ceremony took place in 2010. Bodey J acknowledged that the man had a “deceptive social veneer” and the registrar who conducted the ceremony had believed the man understood the situation.

Whilst the man was capable of engaging in everyday conversations he was only able to remember the fact he was married or the identity of his wife for short periods of time.

The woman had subsequently attempted to take the man from the care home in which he was residing to live with her. However, the local authority applied to the courts for his return. Bodey J ruled in favour of the local authority who also sought to invalidate the marriage.