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Nullity – Marriage declared void – Husband’s consent was obtained by duress

In Nagri & Chapal [2012] FamCA 464 (1 June 2012) the husband applied for a decree of nullity in respect of his marriage to Ms Chapal, saying that he was “subjected to duress” at the time of the marriage (para 3). Collier J reviewed relevant case law at paras 15-25 and concluded at paras 26-30:

“The similarity of the facts in In the marriage of S [(1980) FLC 90-820] and this present case is clear. One thing that could be seen as a difference between that matter and the present case is the difference in the age of the parties. The young lady in In the marriage of S (supra) was less than 18 years of age. The husband in this case was 25 years of age at the time of marriage.

However, I am satisfied that in this case, because of the relationship between the Applicant and his uncle, the Applicant was, at the time of the marriage, the subject of strong feelings of family loyalty. I am satisfied that he accepted his uncle as standing in loco parentis. He was subject to religious and cultural beliefs. He believed that his situation was one where his uncle was entitled to demand his obedience.

I am satisfied that those are the matters that I should focus on. I am satisfied, in the circumstances of this case, that the operation of those factors, and to a lesser extent, but to my mind still of significance, the economic dependence of the Applicant upon his uncle – in the sense that his uncle had sponsored him, posted a bond to assist him and was giving him employment – are such that, when taken together, meant the Applicant’s will was overborne to the extent that he was not acting of his own free will.

I am satisfied that the Applicant acted under, and was subject to, duress imposed upon him at the time of the ceremony of marriage. Thus, his consent to the marriage was not a true full and informed consent. I am therefore satisfied that the ground for relief is made out.

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