Woman wins bid to void ‘fraud’ marriage and divorce
April 3rd, 2017
A WOMAN “shocked and distressed” at finding she was married and divorced all without her knowledge has won a three-year battle to wipe her slate clean.
The nightmare began when “Ms Chou”, a court provided pseudonym, attended the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in 2014 to record a defacto relationship with her new beau, “Mr E”, to help her sponsor him for an Australian partner visa.
The officer processing Ms Chou’s application told her a person with a similar name and personal details was registered as “married” but, nonetheless, issued the requested certificate.
Ms Chou told the Family Court she became an Australian citizen as a teenager in the 1990s after migrating to Australia with her family as a child and had a school aged daughter whose father she never married.
In the course of Mr E’s partner visa application the Department of Immigration asked Ms Chou why she had wrongly claimed she had never previously sponsored a spouse or partner.
The Family Court heard Ms Chou strongly maintained her response was true and was “shocked and distressed” to discover records showed a person matching her identity married a “Mr Tang” in 2000.
Ms Chou told the court she had never heard of or met Mr Tang or the named witnesses and celebrant, and believed a previous boyfriend had sold copies of her passport and other identification to feed his gambling addiction.
Ms Chou said her efforts to have the records rectified were unsuccessful so she reported the matter to police but they refused to act, saying it was “a civil matter”.
After an approach to immigration officials also failed, Ms Chou sought to have the marriage nullified by the Family Court.
However, when Ms Chou went to file her hearing request, she was told the marriage had already been dissolved, by a divorce granted in 2005, and her application was rejected.
So, in January Ms Chou reapplied to have both the marriage and the divorce expunged.
Justice Janine Stevenson agreed to dispense with service of the legal papers on Mr Tang, accepting Ms Chou’s evidence that she didn’t know him or how to contact him, that he was not on electoral rolls and that Federal Police found no record of a Mr Tang with the given birthdate.
She also accepted that Ms Chou had genuine concerns about any contact with Mr Tang.
Ms Chou told the court: “I feel as though I have been violated by this person to an extreme degree and he has committed a crime against me.
“I feel fearful and violated by his fraudulent activity and identity theft and I do not want him to know anything further about me.”
Ms Chou testified she had never seen or signed any of the divorce documents and that Mr Tang’s lawyers had told her their file no longer existed.
Justice Stevenson accepted Ms Chou had had no knowledge of the marriage or divorce.
“Accordingly, I find that the purported consent of Ms Chou to the marriage solemnised in 2000 to Mr Tang was obtained by fraud,” she said.
Justice Stevenson declared both the marriage and the divorce void.
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