Today's award goes to the collective lawyers of the Church of England.
Two million husbands and wives are not lawfully married because of a Church of England blunder, it was revealed yesterday.
Their church weddings are legally invalid because the vicars who married them used the wrong form of words, CofE lawyers admitted.
The error affects more than a million weddings celebrated over the past 30 years in churches across England.
It opens the prospect that marriage partners heading for divorce may try to deny their spouse maintenance, support or even a home on the grounds that they were never really married - the trick tried by Mick Jagger when he claimed his Balinese Hindu wedding to Jerry Hall was never a real marriage.
. . .
The Church’s blunder involves the wording of the banns, which must be read out in church three times in the weeks before a wedding. The banns ask if anyone knows of any good reason why the marriage should not be allowed.
Under the Marriage Act of 1949, the wording of the banns must be that set out in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. This asks the congregation ‘if any of you know cause, or just impediment, why these two persons should not be joined together in Holy Matrimony.’
However, in 1980 the Church brought in a new prayer book, the Alternative Service Book, with a new marriage service and a new form of wording for the banns. The modern wording has continued to be used in the CofE’s latest prayer book, Commons Worship, adopted in 2006.
But when the new prayer books were approved, as is legally necessary, by Parliament, Church lawyers forgot to change the 1949 Marriage Act so that it included the new wording of the banns. This asks if anyone knows a ‘reason in law’ to stop the marriage.
As a result, no wedding conducted under the form prescribed in the newer prayer books is lawful.
. . .
A leading secular divorce lawyer, Jeremy Abraham of the Matthew, Arnold and Baldwin firm, said: ‘Technically, I fear this means many marriages are invalid.
‘But the marriage legislation effectively says that if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, then it is a duck. If both parties believe they are married, then they are protected. In Mick Jagger’s case, he did have to pay out to Jerry. I don’t think this will make a difference in the end in divorce cases.’
There's more at the link.
One million marriages potentially invalid??? It's a good think the C. of E. offers voluntary confession of sins to its members . . . think of all the inadvertent adultery and fornication that's been going on, and will need official forgiveness!