Vervaeke v Smith [1983] 1 A.C. 145

Law of Nullity
Vervaeke v Smith [1983] 1 A.C. 145 is a Family Law case concerning the Law of Nullity.
Facts: A woman from Belgian (P) and Englishman (R) agreed to get married. Several years later, however, P got married to another man (M). Eventually, M died, leaving behind several  properties in England. As a result, P sought to claim the properties of M. P contended that her first marriage was void, as it was a “mock marriage” to help her obtain a British passport, so that she could work as a prostitute. 
Issue: Whether the court granted P a decree of nullity in relation to her marriage under English law with R. 
Held: In Vervaeke v Smith, the English court dismissed P’s claim. However, P obtained a declaration from a Belgian court on the ground that the English marriage was void. P, once again, sought a decree of nullity in the English court. However, the English court held that the Belgian judgment could not be recognised on the ground of action estoppel. Overall, the English court held that as the requirements of formality and capacity had been complied with for the first marriage, in English law, the marriage was legally valid. The intentions of the parties at the time of the marriage were irrelevant. 
References: [1983] 1 A.C. 145, [1982] 2 W.L.R. 855, [1982] 2 All E.R. 144, [1982] 4 WLUK 82, (1982) 126 S.J. 293, [1982] C.L.Y. 946
Read our notes on the Law of Nullity and other cases for more information. 

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