wedding cake

The Family Court has power to make declarations about the validity of a marriage or divorce or to make such other declarations as are justified. One of the more unusual uses of that power arose after Mr Victor lodged his Notice of Intention to Marry with Births Deaths and Marriages. He (believing it was true) ticked “divorced” as his conjugal status. However, when the celebrant asked for his divorce papers he was unable to produce them. He then contacted the person from whom he believed he was divorced only to be told that they were never married. He then attempted to change his status to “never married” at BDM, but alarm bells were ringing and they wouldn’t have a bar of it.

As a result he had no choice but to make an urgent (so as not to interfere with wedding plans) application to the Family Court (Victor & Melway [2009] FamCA 125) to clarify his status. The answer to the question: “how did it come about that he didn’t know his status?” is apparent from the following paragraphs of the judgment:

  1. According to the applicant, the parties commenced a relationship in or about January 1993 and commenced cohabitation around that time. He states that the parties were in a relationship for ten years, living together at various times during this period, and that they finally separated in or about 2004. He acknowledged, as did Ms Melway, that there was no sexual relationship between them and that they cohabited essentially as friends. They became known to each other through their mothers.
  2. The applicant admits that he suffered from drug dependency during the majority of the relationship, smoking marijuana on a regular basis. The applicant submits that due to his marijuana use, he has no “meaningful recollection” of significant portions of his relationship with Ms Melway.
  3. The applicant says it was his understanding that the parties had married early in their relationship, although he could not recall the ceremony, which he attributed to being under the effects of marijuana.
  4. The applicant submits that the parties had a volatile relationship, and that in 2003, following an argument, the respondent asked him to sign a document. According to the applicant he was under the influence of marijuana at the time of signing this document and presumed it to be for the dissolution of the parties’ marriage and that the parties became divorced at that time….

His Honour found that Mr Victor was mistaken about his status and declared that the relationship between the parties was not a marriage. And that divorce document he thought he signed (para 10)? ….it was a Residential Tenancy Agreement – doh!

Thanks go to Nichole Hoskin from Glenbrook Legal Services for telling me about this blogworthy story.

Creative commons acknowledgement for the photograph.

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