Forced Marriage in the U.K

Forced Marriage is a criminal offence in the United Kingdom and has been since 2014. A forced marriage is where one or both spouses do not consent to the marriage but where the spouses face pressure to marry often through threats of physical or emotional and psychological harm. It is illegal to take someone overseas to force them to marry, and it is illegal to marry someone who lacks the capacity to consent to the marriage.

Forced Marriage Protection Order

If you are at risk of a forced marriage, you can apply for a Forced Marriage Protection Order. A third party can also make the application on your behalf, such as the Police, if they are concerned that you may be at risk of a forced marriage.

The aim of a Forced Marriage Protection Order is to protect a person who is at risk of a forced marriage. The FMPO will contain legal binding conditions and directions which will help protect you. This may include surrendering your passport so that you cannot be forced to travel overseas to take part in a forced marriage.

An application for a Forced Marriage Protection Order is made at the Family Court and there is no court fee. You should complete Form FL401A Application for a Forced Marriage Protection Order. If you are in immediate danger the Court can make an emergency order.

What if the respondent does not obey the order?

A breach of a forced marriage order can either be dealt with by the Family Court or the Criminal Court. Under section 63CA of the Family Law Act 1996, the breach of an order is a criminal offence with a maximum penalty of 5 years’ imprisonment. You can also make an application to the Family Court to have the breach dealt with as a contempt of court which carries a maximum penalty of 2 years’ imprisonment.

What happens if I am the protected party but I don’t want the Order in place?

Sometimes a Forced Marriage Protection Order is applied for by a third party, such as the police, on your behalf. The police do not need your consent to make this application, however they must justify to the court that you are at risk of a forced marriage.

You are able to contest the making of a FMPO if you do not believe you are at risk of forced marriage. You may be eligible for legal aid for a solicitor to assist you in court proceedings.

Can I contest the order if I am the respondent?

Yes. As a respondent you have a right to contest the application for a Forced Marriage Protection Order if you do not believe the allegations made against you are true and you do not wish for an Order to be in place.

Further legal assistance

If you are at risk of a forced marriage or you have been served with application for a forced marriage and you are named as a party, please contact us to speak with one of our experts to discuss your case so that we can give you advice and support including an assessment of your eligibility for legal aid.