A recent decision of a Family Court Judge declared a marriage void because the Applicant was under duress to proceed with the marriage ceremony.

The Applicant Husband was born in India and was 24 at the time of the marriage. The Respondent Wife, who was also born in India, was 23 at the time of the marriage. They married in the marriage registry in 2011.

The Applicant came to Australia in 2008 with his mother. He was financially supported by his uncle who posted a bond and provided further financial assistance and employment when he arrived in Australia.

In about August 2011, the uncle advised the Applicant that he had found a girl that he thought he should marry. The evidence before the Court was that by September 2011, the uncle and the Applicant’s mother had reached a decision that a marriage would occur between the Applicant and the Respondent.

The Applicant told the court that he tried to tell his uncle that he did not wish to marry the Respondent and that he was in love with somebody else. The Applicant said that his uncle told him that the marriage must proceed because he had given his word and arrangements had been made.

In October 2011 the parties went through a civil ceremony of marriage in accordance with Australian law.

In December 2011, the Applicant confessed to the Respondent that he had gone through the ceremony out of a sense of duty to his family. He refused to go through with a Hindu ceremony which had been arranged.

In deciding that the marriage was null and void the judge said:

“I am satisfied, in the circumstances of this case…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.”

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