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Mariages religieux et droit civil

Throughout the United Kingdom, parties wishing to marry may do so either by a religious ceremony or by a secular ceremony conducted by a state-appointed registrar of marriages at a register office or some other location (such as a hotel) licensed for the purpose. In the case of weddings in the Church of England and the Church in Wales, the whole procedure including the preliminaries as to notices and licences, is carried out by the church. In other cases a religious ceremony requires certain civil preliminaries, usually the grant of a ‘superintendent registrar’s certificate’ after notice has been given 21 days beforehand. In England (but not in Scotland where different rules apply) a non-Anglican religious ceremony must be held in a registered building (or, for historical reasons, a synagogue or a Meeting House of the Society of Friends) and registered either by the minister if he is authorised for the purpose or by a registrar of marriages.

Although the Roman Catholic Church maintains its system of diocesan tribunals to hear nullity of marriage cases, the decisions of those tribunals have no legal status in United Kingdom law. The Anglican Consistory courts, which are part of the English legal system, have had no matrimonial jurisdiction since 1857 when the secular courts assumed this function. There is a matrimonial jurisdiction, equally denied direct recognition by English law, in the rabbinical courts. Provision was made to deal with some of the consequences of the existence of this jurisdiction in the Divorce (Religious Marriages) Act 2002. This sought to remedy the plight of some Jewish women who may have their marriages ended by a divorce in the civil courts but who find themselves in grave difficulty because the other spouse refuses to enter into the religious divorce procedure of a get from the rabbinical court. The Act enables the courts to issue an order that the civil divorce decree shall not be made absolute until both parties certify that the required religious procedures have been complied with.

The churches, and especially the Church of England, are regularly consulted on family law matters. Any change in marriage law (for example relaxations in 1986 in the law as to affinity) is preceded by close consultation ; in that case a Church report was prepared for and published by the Archbishop of Canterbury before the State acted.

D 11 septembre 2012    ADavid McClean

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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