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What is a Forced Marriage Protection Order (FMPO)?

Woman rejecting a marriage proposal

These are marriages where the crucial element of consent is either conspicuously absent or rendered impossible. What makes forced marriages especially concerning is their pervasive nature, transcending boundaries of age, ethnicity, gender, and nationality. It’s essential, however, to differentiate them from arranged marriages, where both parties actively engage and give their consent to the matrimonial union.

In the jurisdiction of England and Wales, there exists a vital legal instrument to combat the distressing phenomenon of forced marriages—the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act of 2007. This legislation empowers the judiciary to issue Force Marriage Protection Orders (FMPOs) with the primary intent of safeguarding potential victims from further harm related to forced marriages.

These FMPOs serve as formidable deterrents, functioning similarly to non-molestation orders or injunctions. Their core mission is to provide a robust shield for individuals who might otherwise find themselves coerced into a marriage against their will.

The utility of an FMPO extends beyond mere deterrence; it also empowers the legal system to impose specific restrictions on the actions of the perpetrators. These restrictions encompass preventing the perpetrator from taking the victim out of the country, orchestrating marriage arrangements, establishing direct or indirect contact with the victim, and, most importantly, ensuring the physical safety of the victim.

The eligibility criteria for seeking an FMPO are clear-cut. Individuals who find themselves either being coerced into a marriage or are already ensnared in a forced marriage have the legal right to seek protection through an FMPO. Furthermore, the law recognizes the importance of concerned third parties in this context. With the court’s authorization, relevant third parties can petition for an FMPO on behalf of a victim, amplifying the reach of legal protection. Moreover, local authorities play a crucial role in safeguarding vulnerable individuals. They can take proactive steps by applying for an FMPO if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the victim is vulnerable or under the age of 18.

One intriguing facet of the FMPO process is that, in certain circumstances, these orders can be granted without prior notification to the respondent. The court exercises this discretion judiciously, taking into account the unique circumstances of each case. The primary aim here is to prioritize the safety and wellbeing of the victim. It’s only after the court issues the order that the respondent is formally informed.

Crucially, there is no financial burden in seeking legal protection through an FMPO, as there are no court fees associated with making an application. Additionally, individuals who require legal aid but may have financial constraints need not worry, as legal aid is available, subject to a means test.

If you or someone you know is grappling with the distressing issues related to forced marriages, we urge you to take action. Do not hesitate to reach out to our specialized team at Haris Law Solicitors. We stand ready to provide advice, guidance, and unwavering support throughout the process of applying for an FMPO. Your safety and well-being are our top priorities. Please contact us at 01254 461461 to access further information and support from our dedicated team.

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