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Blog Posted in avatar   Johnny Summerton's Blog

Parents' "Napoleonic law" bid to stop marriage fails - for now

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By Johnny Summerton
Posted Dec 30, 2010 in World
A word of warning if you're a foreigner wanting to marry a French national.
You might just want to make sure you have the agreement of your future in-laws because if they're not happy with the upcoming nuptials they might seek recourse in an archaic law preventing the marriage from going ahead.
"Not possible," you might be thinking, especially if both the prospective bride and groom are beyond the age of consent.
Wrong.
It can, and indeed did happen in November when the parents of the groom-to-be, Stéphane Sage, stepped in to prevent him from tying the knot with his future intended Man Sin Ma (known as Mandy) from Hong Kong.
The couple are both in their mid-20s but Page's parents objected to his choice of bride and resorted to a law dating from 1803 to stop the marriage from going ahead.
They succeeded and the ceremony was postponed while the couple went to court to have the legal objection overruled.
The problems for the couple came to a head in November just hours before they were due to be married in the town of Meylan in the southeastern French département of Isère.
The banns required by law had been removed from the town hall as Sage's parents, disapproving of the marriage as they reportedly thought Mandy was "only interested in gaining French nationality to be able to stay in the country" had successfully sought to have them withdrawn just as was their right under article 173 of the civil code.
It states that, "The father and the mother, or by default the grandparents, may oppose the marriage of their children or descendants even if they've reached the age of majority."
Archaic and anachronistic perhaps, belonging as it does to Napoleonic times, but the parents were fully within their legal rights as it has never been repealed.
This week though the couple succeeded in having the decision overturned and a court ruled that they were free to marry as "There was no objective reason to justify the (parents') decision."
Sage's mother and father now have one month in which to appeal the ruling and, if what the 27-year-old told Agence France Presse is true, then both he and his fiancée are surely on tenterhooks waiting for their next move.
"At first they said Mandy only wanted to marry me to get papers," he told AFP.
"Now they're accusing her of being a spy for the Chinese government."
That's what happens when your prospective "in-laws from Hell" come from a country which has far too many laws on its books.
You have been warned.

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