Caven blog

Marriage is a shared partnership, right? Maybe not if you have ‘ugly’ kids…

An unusual family law case from China recently surfaced in a number of new sources.

According to the reports, Jian Fang was “horrified” at how ugly his and his beautiful wife’s newborn daughter was.

He initially refused to believe the child was his, which led to his wife admitting having had extensive plastic surgery in South Korea before they met.

Apparently Fang sued his now ex-wife for false pretences and won, with the judge ordering her to pay several thousand pounds in compensation.

Can this be real? What about the impact?

Some allege this story is a prank or publicity stunt by South Korean plastic surgery clinics.  Nonetheless, it throws up interesting questions for family lawyers.

Many people uncover secrets about their partner after getting married. Suppose my charming and elegant suitor turned out to be a slob once the knot was sealed? What if I was not introduced to the nightmarish in-laws until the wedding day? Could I terminate my marriage or even sue my ex?

Annulling a marriage

In English law there are several grounds on which you can annul a marriage (i.e. legally erase it from existence). Examples include when your partner hid the fact that they were already married, had a sexually transmitted disease, or were pregnant by another man.

However, false pretences are not in themselves a basis for annulment.

In addition, annulment can take place if you didn’t properly consent to get married because of a mistake about your partner. The mistake has to go to the heart of your partner’s identity - being misled about their past or their personal attributes like wealth or profession isn’t enough.

In Australia a court once ordered an annulment when the woman discovered that her new husband was a hermaphrodite and incapable of consummating the union (Re. C & D, 1979).

In another case, the husband was an illegal immigrant who had developed a false identity in order to get married (Militante v Ogunwomoju, 1994).

Can I sue my partner for damages?

What about suing my spouse for damages if it turns out they deceived me before the wedding? This is not especially common in England and countries with similar legal systems.

However, one example is the 2006 Canadian case of Raju v Kumar. Here, a wife sued her husband on the basis that he deceived her into believing he intended to be permanently married. In fact he had a lover in his home country and only got married to get a visa.

The wife was awarded damages for “hurt feelings, humiliation, inconvenience and postponement of the opportunity to marry another man while she was still capable of bearing children”.

So, the ugly tale of Jian Fang and his unfortunate daughter is intriguing but far removed from the reality of English law. In fact the circumstances where you have legal redress for false pretences by your spouse are very limited.

In any case, there is no way to make up for a broken heart. The conclusion – avoid a nasty surprise and get to know your partner before you commit!

Of course, if any of the reasons mentioned above that can result in an annulment are valid, contact us and we will be able to find you a family lawyer in your area with experience in this kind of case.


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