Reader, I never married her

Marry in Bali if you must. Just don't forget the paperwork.
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The Independent Culture
FOR JERRY it must be the icing on the non-existent wedding cake. To put up with so much ritual humiliation as a long-suffering wife is one thing, but as a duped cohabitee it is quite another. So much for the Hindu ceremony in Bali that should have meant so much. Legally, it may be as binding as a piece of string.

More than anything, she must regret that so many mundanities were overlooked; the vital details that make such a service valid. There are reports that the priest at the ceremony did not receive the correct legal documents, and that a letter of authority had not been obtained from the British consul.

Fatal, of course. Vanessa Lloyd Platt, senior partner for divorce specialists Lloyd Platt & Co, says: "All they had to produce was a piece of paper from the embassy saying they weren't married to anyone else - but they didn't. Cynics would say that Mick knew. Or perhaps they were both carried away with the passion of marrying in an exotic place, and forgot."

So before you throw that sarong in a suitcase, it's imperative to know just when a marriage means marriage. And when it doesn't. Simply, a foreign wedding is kosher if you abide by that country's rules. Lloyd Platt says: "People have a misconception about marrying in faraway places. It is valid as long as it is recognised by the country in which you married. You have to go through the A to Z of their criteria."

Whether it's in a mud hut in Papua New Guinea or a brothel in Texas, British law will recognise it as legally binding. Lloyd Platt adds, "You have to go to the consulate and prove that the right number of witnesses were there - usually two - and go through the requisite steps".

Lloyd Platt has seen a steep rise in cases of these sorts, usually where a couple married years ago, often in a tribal ceremony. "Frequently it's because witnesses weren't present. It's devastating for the people involved, and often they only find out when they try to file for divorce."

The only comfort is that now exotic weddings have become so popular - around 10,000 people a year opt for a foreign ceremony - the process is far more well established. Many holiday companies offer wedding packages for around pounds 4,000 a go, all with comprehensive advice on the legal aspects. Some of them, like Thomson, will advise couples what to wear, and even which ceremony to choose; naturally, far too pedestrian an option for the likes of Jerry and Mick.

Still, it would probably have benefited Jerry, now a common-law wife whose criteria for claiming Mick's millions will have to be entirely different. "She'll probably come off worse," says Lloyd Platt. "As a wife, you can claim for pensions and lump sums. As a cohabitee, it depends on her own financial contributions."

All in all, with no more claim to Mick's name than his many and varied flings, Jerry must be regretting that she didn't push the ageing rocker up the aisle, and not on to that plane to Bali.

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