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Forced Marriage Protection Orders
If you or someone you know is at risk of being forced into marriage against their will, get in touch with our family law solicitors for advice. Forced marriage is a criminal offence, but you also have civil law options for seeking protection.
At Crisp & Co, we are a specialist firm of family lawyers with expertise in a wide range of complex and challenging issues.
Every person has the right to decide for themselves whether they want to get married or not. We can help people who are facing a forced marriage or are already in a forced marriage apply for a Forced Marriage Protection Order from the courts.
A Forced Marriage Protection Order can prevent someone from doing certain things such as using threats, physical or sexual violence or emotional abuse as a way to force you or someone you know into marriage.
We can make applications for Forced Marriage Protection Orders at short notice and on an urgent basis. We can make the application ‘without notice’ which means the person trying to force the marriage won’t be notified until the Order has been made.
We are members of the Law Society Family Law Advanced Accreditation for our skills and experience handling complex family law matters, such as those involving abuse and violence.
Get in touch for advice about Forced Marriage Protection Orders
Forced marriage helplines
If you are worried that someone is about to be taken abroad against their will to get married, you can immediately contact the following helplines for assistance:
- The Forced Marriage Unit on 020 7008 0151 or email email@example.com
- Karma Nirvana on 0800 5999 247
In an emergency, call the police on 999.
Try to avoid approaching the victim’s family directly as this may put them at risk of harm.
Forced Marriage Protection Orders FAQs
What is forced marriage?
A forced marriage occurs when one person or both people are made to get married against their will, usually by their families or community. Force can cover all types of behaviour and actions, including:
- Physical violence
- Sexual violence
- Financial pressure (e.g. withholding access to your money or threats to cut you off)
- Emotional pressure (e.g. telling you that you’ll bring shame on the family if you don’t get married)
- Emotional and psychological abuse
- Harassment (e.g. following you or persistently contacting you)
Typically, the perpetrator will use a combination of behaviours until the victim gives in or they will physically threaten and coerce the victim into going through with the marriage.
Many victims of forced marriage ‘agree’ to the marriage but only because they know that there will be consequences if they do not, such as violence or ostracization from their community. Some people enter into marriage not realising it is technically a forced marriage, only that it is what their family ‘expects’. If this applies to you, you can still seek protection.
Forced marriage overwhelmingly affects women and girls but men can also be forced into marriage. It is an issue that is predominantly associated with South Asian cultures, however, forced marriage happens in many communities, regardless of nationality, religion, cultural identity, or other factors such as financial status, gender or sexuality. In some circumstances, people who identify as LGBT+ may be more at risk as their family feels the need to ‘fix’ them.
Forced marriage can also occur where the victim lacks the mental capacity to consent to the marriage, for example, they have severe learning difficulties.
What are the signs of forced marriage?
We can advise people who are worried about a family member being forced into marriage. Often, forced marriage happens behind closed doors - it may have been planned by the victim’s parents, family, religious leaders or other prominent members of their community. Victims are often afraid to speak out or do not realise they are not freely consenting to the marriage. Therefore, spotting the signs can be difficult.
Some signs that a person might be at risk of forced marriage include:
- They withdraw from social activities they used to enjoy or from seeing friends
- They stop answering call and texts and being active on social media
- Their personality becomes sad and withdrawn, either suddenly or gradually as their family wears them down over time
- They show physical signs of violence such as bruising
- They plan to go away for a long holiday, often to a country where they have family
- Planning to leave education early
- Persistent absence from school
- They are often under supervision or surveillance by family members
- They have siblings who were previously forced into marriage
- An older sibling previously refused to get married and may have suffered consequences, such as being disowned from the family and community
Even if you are unsure about whether forced marriage is a risk, seeking legal advice is the right thing to do. It is better to be safe than sorry and the warning signs above can also be indicators of other related issues such as domestic abuse.
What is the difference between forced marriage and arranged marriage?
Arranged marriage is when the couple’s families are involved in arranging the union, however, both individuals are allowed the freedom to consent to the marriage.
Unlike forced marriage, arranged marriage is not illegal. However, the distinction can sometimes be confusing as arranged marriage is common in some close-knit family structures, cultures and communities and forced marriage is often the result of undue pressure upon the individual from their family and community. The key is to establish whether the individuals involved are freely consenting and not just agreeing due to fear or pressure.
If you would like further advice about this, please do not hesitate to ask us a question.
What protection is there against forced marriage?
There is both criminal and civil protection against forced marriage.
Since 2014, it has been a specific criminal offence to force or try to force someone to marry against their will, regardless of whether the victim is forced in the UK or taken abroad to marry.
Since 2008, the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 introduced Forced Marriage Protection Orders in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to protect adults and children who are being forced into marriage or are already in a forced marriage.
What is a Forced Marriage Protection Order?
A Forced Marriage Protection Order can prevent someone from taking actions to force someone into marriage. This could include threatening the victim, approaching the victim, or taking the victim out of the country. The exact wording of the Order will be tailored to suit your individual circumstances.
Forced Marriage Protection Orders can also carry a power of arrest so if anyone disobeys the Order, you can call the police and they will be arrested and possibly prosecuted.
You can apply for an Order whether you are the person at risk of forced marriage or you know someone who is at risk. If appropriate, we can help you make the application ‘without notice’; this means that the person trying to force you or the victim into marriage will not be notified about the application until it has been made.
We can help you prepare a Forced Marriage Protection Order application requesting exactly what action you want the court to take to protect you or the victim. We will be very clear to the court about the risks of not making the Order, giving you the best possible chance of achieving a successful result. You will usually have to attend a hearing, but it will be held in private and we will be by your side the entire time.
How long does a Forced Marriage Protection Order last?
If the court makes an Order, they will either make:
- A full Forced Marriage Protection Order - this will last until someone applies to court to discharge or change it
- An Interim Forced Marriage Protection Order - these are usually made upon emergency applications such as if the victim is as risk of being take abroad. This type of Order is temporary and will usually last until there is a further hearing at which the court may make a full Order or discharge the Order depending on the circumstances
Forced marriage and domestic violence
Victims of forced marriage are also often subjected to domestic violence, either by their family or by the spouse whom they were forced to marry. We fully understand and sympathise with how frightening it can be to face domestic violence behaviours, whether it be physical abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse, coercive control, sexual abuse or any other kind of abuse. It can also be just as frightening to seek help. We have a dedicated domestic violence service to help you get protection for you and your children (if you have any).
Other ways we can help
As well as advice about Forced Marriage Protection Orders and protection from domestic abuse, we can help you or someone you know with a wide range of related family law issues, such as:
- Divorce – if you have been forced to marry someone against your will, we can help you seek a divorce. If your spouse objects to your divorce petition, we can also provide advice about defended divorce proceedings and vigorously fight your corner in court
- Annulment – if you want to separate from your spouse but cannot or do not want to get a divorce (for example, it is against your culture or religion), we can provide advice about getting an annulment. This is a way to end your marriage as if it had never happened
- Arrangements for children – if you have children with the person you were forced to marry, we can provide advice about sorting out ongoing parenting arrangements. For example, seeking a Child Arrangements Order that names you as the children’s resident parent