A celebrant asks:
Groom previously married – all documents are satisfactory. Bride previously married – Has returned to her maiden name. Provides Passport in maiden name & Driver’s Licence in maiden name but divorce papers are in married name. Is a stat dec required?
The simple answer to the question here is that no, a stat dec is not required. But the chain of evidence that we should see is a bit more complex than most celebrants realise.
If a party to a marriage was previously married, and adopted their spouse’s name by marriage, their divorce documentation will be issued in their married name, because that’s the name they were using when they applied for the divorce.
This causes a problem in the chain of evidence for a celebrant for the next marriage. We would usually see:
- A birth certificate for proof of date and place of birth. The birth certificate will be in the name of (for example) Jane Smith.
- A divorce certificate to show the party is free to marry. The divorce certificate will be in the name of Jane Brown.
- A form of photo ID to show the link between the documentation and the person sitting in front of us. The photo ID will either be in Jane Smith (so shows the link between the person sitting in front of us and the birth certificate) or Jane Brown (so shows the link between the person sitting in front of us and the divorce certificate).
Given the birth certificate and the divorce certificate are in different names, and the photo ID will be in one name or the other but not both, how do we know that both documents belong to the person sitting in front of us?
The only way to know is if we see an additional document: the original marriage certificate. The marriage certificate will show that Jane Smith married Tim Brown, so we can infer that she took her husband’s name and became Jane Brown. So the full chain of documents required is:
- Birth certificate in Jane Smith
- Marriage certificate showing Jane Smith married Tim Brown
- Divorce certificate showing Jane Brown divorced Tim Brown
- Photo ID in Jane Brown to show the divorce certificate belongs to the person sitting in front of you (or in Jane Smith to show the birth certificate belongs to the person sitting in front of you).
Few celebrants think to ask a party to bring their marriage certificate to show them, but the Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 for Authorised Celebrants 2018 do require that we sight this full chain of evidence before the marriage takes place (see the case study on pages 57-58).