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In the last week Channel 4 aired its controversial match-making series ‘Married at First Sight’, which sees experts pair couples based on science rather than on religious or cultural reasons. As the name might suggest, the first time the couples will set eyes on each another is at the business end of the aisle.

Over 1,500 people applied to take part in the social experiment, which has had both successes and failures in Finland, Germany and the US. The panel of experts including psychiatrists and social anthropologists used an extensive questionnaire, psychological interview, DNA and comparison of weekend diaries to pair up the three couples. The first episode looks into how the individuals are matched, the second shows the weddings themselves and the third and final episode follows the couples on honey moon, the realities of moving in together and after five weeks, the final outcome.

There was outrage on social media with people commenting that the show is online dating taken too far, that it belittles and destroys the sanctity of marriage. Whatever you might think of the series, it is an undeniably intriguing format. Despite the fact that we plan most of our lives, including education, finances and careers it would seem that many are still uncomfortable with the concept of planning our love lives.

David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, has commented that individuals should enter marriage responsibly and only after serious thought. He went on to say that love isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for marriage, as arranged marriages involving family often have a good record of success, but that you need to be sure that this is person you will commit to for the rest of your life.

The Anti-social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 which came into force last Summer distinguishes between ‘forced’ marriages, where there is no consent and pressure or abuse is used, and ‘arranged’ marriages where both parties have consented to the union but can still refuse to marry if they choose to.

Bishop Walker’s comments are supported by Dr Robert Epstein, a Harvard academic, who has studied arranged marriages for eight years. Dr Epstein found that love in arranged marriages tends to grow gradually, surpassing the love in unarranged marriages after five years and reaching love levels that are typically twice as strong after ten years. Experts claim this is because arranged marriages are carefully considered and more thought is given to whether ambitions, goals, interests and families are compatible, whereas those who marry for love tend to overlook these crucial details. Whilst not an advocate of arranged marriages, Dr Epstein has said there is a lot to be learned from them.

I suspect it will be far from easy for the ‘Married at First Sight’ couples with the press intrusion and public interest in the story. This might be the reason why one of the couples has already dropped out of the social experiment.

So will it be ‘Divorced at Second Sight’ for the remaining couples?

The answer is no. In English law, you can only petition for divorce if you have been married for at least a year and your relationship has irretrievably broken down, which is demonstrated by proving one of five facts:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Two years’ separation with consent
  • Five years’ separation without consent
  • Desertion

Therefore, unless our couples want to wait two or five years to divorce, they will need to rely upon the ‘fault based’ facts of adultery or unreasonable behaviour.

However, there might be another option open to them. Unlike divorce you can get a marriage annulled at any time after the wedding if the marriage is not legally valid, known as ‘void marriages’, or if it is defective, known as ‘voidable’ marriages. If the couples are able to demonstrate that the marriage was defective for one of the reasons stated below, then it would be deemed a ‘voidable marriage’ and capable of being annulled:

  • The marriage was not consummated;
  • You did not properly consent to the marriage;
  • Your partner had a sexually transmitted disease when you got married;
  • Your partner became pregnant by another man when you got married;

The science of happily ever after? Only time will tell for the remaining two couples.

If you are separating or considering getting a divorce it is important that you also deal with arrangements relating to any children and the financial aspects arising on divorce. At Gorvins we offer a personal, practical and collaborative service which assists when dealing with cases of a sensitive nature.

If you need advice please contact me on 0161 930 5151 or email me on and I will be more than happy to help you.