Most people have heard of identity theft in regard to financial crimes, but not many people are aware that a person’s identity can also be stolen to perform an illegal marriage.
This was exactly the situation faced by a Sydney woman, known as Ms Chou, who contacted Owen Hodge for legal help concerning a fraudulently performed marriage.

After making an application to the NSW Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages in relation to a current relationship, Ms Chou was informed that not only had she been married in 2000, but she had also been divorced in 2005. As Ms Chou had never knowingly been married or divorced before, it became evident that her personal details had been stolen and misused to create both a fraudulent marriage and divorce.

Ms Chou made extensive attempts to have the marriage and divorce dissolved through various government authorities, but was eventually told that there was nothing they could do to help. In desperation, she turned to Owen Hodge Lawyers Family Law Solicitor. Our solicitor, who has extensive experience in family court matters ultimately took the case to the Family Court in order to have the marriage ‘annulled’ or made legally void. In practice, it is very difficult to have a marriage annulled by the court and there are only a few reasons under the Family Law Act that justify the finding that a marriage is invalid. Among these is the lack of consent by a party of the marriage due to fraud[1].

Unfortunately this case was further complicated because the fraudulent marriage had also been ended by a fraudulent divorce, which meant that the divorce must also be considered invalid. In addition to the complex legal issues at hand was the fact that there were no other cases under Australian law dealing specifically with the issue of identity theft in relation to a fraudulent marriage.

Despite the overwhelming legal challenges, Owen Hodge Lawyers put forward Ms Chou’s case with great success with the court ordering both the marriage and divorce legally void. For our overjoyed client, we was able to provide a speedy end to Ms Chou’s previously lengthy and unsuccessful battle to regain her stolen identity.

In addition to Owen Hodge Lawyers achieving an outstanding result for our client, the court’s decision in regard to divorce, nullity and stolen identity is now a landmark case in family law matters of this type. In the future, other unfortunate victims of fraud in relation to marriage will now have a legal precedent to assist them in their quest to regain their true identity.
[1] Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) S.23B(1)(d)(i)