NT Annulment of Forced Marriages?

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15 March 2017
I'm a migrant wife and I'm trying to understand the laws re: nullifiable marriages and forced marriage.

I'm trying to understand the Australian view on marital consent and nullifiable marriages.

A marriage can be annulled if consent was not freely given due to fraud, coercion, or mental incapacity such that one or both partners don't understand the responsibilities of marriage.

It says (in short) that the courts have decided that fraud about a person only applies in the case of a different identity. As in, Sue believes she's marrying John Smith when she's marrying John's cousin Johnnie Smith. Fraud can also apply to the ceremony itself, as in it wasn't performed by a proper registered marriage celebrant or there wasn't a licence.

I think that means that if a one person systematically lies to the other person about their character, motivation, feelings, and mental health that's not "fraud" for the purposes of granting an annulment.

For duress, it explains that "These decisions [cited on the web site] show that the Court will only grant a decree of nullity based on duress in extreme circumstances, where one or both parties are suffering a great deal of mental oppression based on the pressure to marry at the time that the ceremony is taking place. It is not sufficient that the stronger will of one party is imposed on the weaker or more impressionable character of the other."

So if I'm reading that correctly does that really mean that if one partner psychologically torments the other partner over the space of months or years and but doesn't abuse them on the day of the marriage ceremony, then returns to abusing them the day after the ceremony the marriage can't be annulled?

Does that mean in the case of forced marriage where 18 year old girls or boys are subjected to ongoing family threats and pressure to marry people they don't want to marry that the ceremony can't be annulled if the threats aren't repeated the day of the ceremony?


Well-Known Member
31 October 2015

If the marriage wasn't conducted by an authorised person and not registered, it's my understanding that there effectively was no marriage. If you feel you have been forced into an arranged or forced relationship, go to the police. Otherwise you should contact a lawyer.

Rob Legat - SBPL

LawTap Verified
16 February 2017
Gold Coast, Queensland
Your assumption as to duress isn't correct. Courts will determine "at the time" as wider than that exact minute or that exact day. The 'remoteness' of the situation will be looked at. If the behaviour immediately surrounds the marriage, it will most likely be deemed to happen ' at the time'. If it occurred years ago, then without some evidence of an overwhelming, direct effect it is unlikely to be deemed to happen 'at the time'.