Are the marriages legally binding in Married at First Sight?

Married at First Sight is a popular reality TV show that matches strangers who agree to get legally married when they first meet at the altar. This unique social experiment has captured the fascination of viewers who wonder if these marriages hold up legally. Let’s take a closer look at how real and binding these marriages are.

How does Married at First Sight work?

The premise of Married at First Sight involves Relationship experts matching complete strangers based on compatibility tests, interviews, and personality profiles. The couples agree to get legally married when they meet for the first time at the altar. After the wedding, they go on a honeymoon, move in together, and try to build a marriage. The couples remain married for 8 weeks as they navigate daily married life and get to know each other. At the end of the 8 weeks, they have to decide if they want to stay married or get a divorce.

Casting Process

Participants go through a rigorous selection process to get on the show. They fill out detailed application forms about their background, personality, lifestyle, preferences, dealbreakers, and relationship history. Applicants undergo interviews with relationship experts and background checks. The experts use psychological testing and assessments to match couples with the highest probability of marital success. Finalists meet with a legal team to sign contracts and agree to get legally married at first sight.

Legal Marriage

The marriages that take place on Married at First Sight are legally recognized marriages. The couples get a marriage license and are legally wed by an officiant. The marriages have to meet the legal requirements for a lawful marriage to be valid. Participants have to be eligible to get married, freely consent and agree to the marriage, and have witnesses present. The couples sign a marriage certificate after the ceremony to make the wedding official.

Are the Marriages Truly Binding?

Even though the marriages are legally valid, there are some elements that make the unions less binding compared to real-life marriages:

Short Timeframe

The couples make a big commitment after knowing each other for a very brief time. Regular marriages develop over months or years as couples get to know each other. MAFS newlyweds only get 8 weeks before deciding the fate of their marriage. This short timeframe can make it difficult to create a solid marital foundation.

Unconventional Approach

Marrying a complete stranger in an experiment for TV is highly unconventional. There are doubts whether relationships formed under these manufactured conditions can last in the real world. The unusual approach may not set the couples up for long-term marital success.

Trial Marriages

The marriages are essentially a trial period where the couples test their compatibility. The spouses go into it with the understanding that it may not be a permanent union. This makes the marriages less binding than real-world marriages where couples expect to be together for life.

Easy Way Out

With no-fault divorce, the couples can easily get out of the marriages with few obstacles or delays. Traditional married couples face more complex disentanglements of shared property, finances, family, and children. MAFS couples can walk away cleanly after 8 weeks.


The couples may be more willing to get married and take risks since it’s part of a social experiment. This experimental mindset can lead to rushed decisions participants may not make in real life when getting married.

Legal Protections and Responsibilities

Despite some unconventional elements, the MAFS marriages do come with major legal protections, benefits, and responsibilities:

Legally Recognized Union

The state views the marriages as valid and legally recognized unions. The couples get full marital rights and protections under the law like other married couples.

Financial Obligations

Spouses are financially responsible for each other. Any debts, loans, or assets acquired during the marriage are legally shared. Divorce involves dividing marital property, finances, and debts.

Medical Decisions

As legal spouses, the couples can make medical decisions for each other if one partner is incapacitated. They have hospital visitation rights.

Spousal Privileges

The couples get marital privileges like spousal immunity where they cannot be forced to testify against each other. Confidential communications between spouses are also privileged.

Responsibilities Until Divorce

The marriage licenses give the spouses all marital rights, protections and responsibilities. These remain binding until they get a legal divorce to terminate the marriage.

Legally Married

Regardless of the experimental circumstances, the state views the couples as married. The marriages have serious legal weight backing them until a divorce is finalized.

Divorce Process After Filming

When the 8-week filming period ends, the couples have to decide if they want to stay married or get a divorce. Their continuing marital status has legal implications:

Staying Married

If couples choose to remain married, their marriage remains valid. They must take legal steps to formally establish their marital life like merging finances, getting added to insurance policies, making medical decisions, and more. Without divorcing, they are married in the eyes of the law.

Getting Divorced

If the couples opt for divorce, they have to file legal divorce paperwork and go through the formal dissolution process. Until the divorce is final, they remain legally married and must act accordingly.

Dividing Assets

Any shared property, debts, or financial assets acquired during the marriage are divided. The division of assets depends on the divorce agreement and whether they had a prenuptial agreement.

Spousal Support

In some cases, the higher earning spouse may have to pay spousal support or alimony to the other. But short-term marriages of less than 10 years rarely involve alimony awards.

Updating Legal Status

Once divorced, the spouses must update their legal status across records, documents, government agencies, insurers, and other entities. The divorce judgment restores them to legal singleness.

History of Divorces

Looking at past seasons gives insight into how binding and successful the MAFS marriages turn out to be:

Season Number of Couples Matched Couples Still Married Couples Divorced
Season 1 3 0 3
Season 2 3 0 3
Season 3 4 0 4
Season 4 3 1 2
Season 5 3 0 3
Season 6 5 2 3
Season 7 5 1 4
Season 8 5 2 3
Season 9 5 2 3
Season 10 5 1 4
Season 11 5 2 3
Total 42 11 31

Out of 42 couples matched throughout 11 seasons, only 11 are still married from the show. The other 31 couples ended up getting divorced. This equates to a marital success rate of only around 26%. The low marriage survival rate confirms the marriages formed on the show face substantial challenges in transitioning to the real world long-term.

Factors That Contribute to Divorce

Why do so many of the MAFS couples ultimately get divorced and not stay married? There are several key factors that play a role:

Incompatible Matches

Despite extensive matchmaking efforts, some pairings lack the compatibility and chemistry to sustain a real marriage. The mismatches become apparent as they interact in real-life scenarios.

Superficial Connections

Many couples form immediate superficial bonds fueled by the excitement and intimacy of the experience. But those connections fail to transition into substantive compatible relationships.

Differing Motives

Some participants may sign up for exposure, fame, travel, fun or adventure rather than a serious commitment. Differing motives can divide couples and lead to irreconcilable differences.

Untested Relationships

Even initially compatible couples may unravel as untested elements of their relationship are revealed under real-world pressures and familiarity.

Unresolved Issues

Problematic personality traits, behaviors, communication issues, or core differences can undermine the marriages unless resolved through hard work and counseling.

Stressful Circumstances

Getting married on TV and living under constant observation is stressful. This pressure can expose and exacerbate cracks in the foundation of the marriages.

Lack of Investment

With an easy out, couples may not invest the work into marriage counseling, compromise, and relationship-building that helps traditional marriages last.

Return to Normal Life

After the show wraps, returning to regular life and routines outside the bubble of filming changes the couples’ realities and dynamics, causing strain.

Legal Considerations

Participants who agree to legally marry a stranger undergo an intensive process to understand the serious implications:

Informed Consent

The couples must be fully informed upfront about what the marriage and filming entail. They sign contracts confirming informed voluntary consent before matched.

Legal Counsel

Cast members consult with legal teams to review contracts and learn about the legal ramifications before signing on. Lawyers ensure they grasp the binding implications.

Binding Agreements

Detailed contracts lock the participants into the marriage, filming, and broadcast. There are financial penalties for backing out or violating the agreements.

Pre-nuptial Agreements

Cast members can opt to sign pre-nups to protect assets in case of divorce. Prenups can limit financial claims a spouse can make in a split.

State Marriage Laws

The marriages must abide by each state’s marriage legislation. Local marriage license requirements, registration, and rules apply.

Divorce Laws

If couples get divorced, regular state divorce laws determine the proceedings and division of assets. The marriages legally end only when the divorce is finalized under state law.


In summary, while the Married At First Sight marriages are technically legally binding unions, the experimental environment casts doubt on how successful and lasting the relationships are in practice. The show’s very low marriage survival rates back this up. Still, the marriages come with major legal protections and responsibilities that continue until a legal divorce is finalized. So while unconventional, the marriages are real in the eyes of the law.

Leave a Comment