Marriage of convenience
A marriage of convenience (plural marriages of convenience) is a marriage
Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found...

 contracted for reasons other than the reasons of relationship, family, or love. Instead, such a marriage is orchestrated for personal gain or some other sort of strategic purpose, such as political marriage. The phrase is a calque
In linguistics, a calque or loan translation is a word or phrase borrowed from another language by literal, word-for-word or root-for-root translation.-Calque:...

 of - a marriage of convention, or marriage of suitability. In the cases when it represents a fraud
In criminal law, a fraud is an intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual; the related adjective is fraudulent. The specific legal definition varies by legal jurisdiction. Fraud is a crime, and also a civil law violation...

, it is called sham marriage
Sham marriage
A sham marriage or fake marriage is a marriage of convenience entered into with the intent of deceiving public officials or society about its purpose. Arranging or entering into such a marriage to deceive public officials is itself a separate violation of the law of some countries...


Legal loophole

Marriages of convenience are often contracted to exploit legal loophole
A loophole is a weakness that allows a system to be circumvented.Loophole may also refer to:*Arrowslit, a slit in a castle wall*Loophole , a short science fiction story by Arthur C...

s of various sorts.

A couple may wed for reasons of citizenship
Citizenship is the state of being a citizen of a particular social, political, national, or human resource community. Citizenship status, under social contract theory, carries with it both rights and responsibilities...

 or right of abode
Right of abode
The right of abode is an individual's freedom from immigration control in a particular country. A person who has the right of abode in a country does not need permission from the government to enter the country and can live and work there without restriction....

, for example, as many countries around the world will grant such rights to any wedded resident.

U.S. Immigration (USCIS) can punish this with a $250,000 fine and five-year prison sentence.

The term "marriage of convenience" has also come into popular use at the University of Adelaide
University of Adelaide
The University of Adelaide is a public university located in Adelaide, South Australia. Established in 1874, it is the third oldest university in Australia...

 and other Australian Universities as a sort of catch-cry against the Australian Government's Youth Allowance laws. On the 31st of March 2010 two students were publicly and legally married on the University's lawn in a so called "marriage of convenience" so that they could both receive full youth allowance.


Another common reason for marriages of convenience is to hide one partner's homosexuality in cases where being openly gay is punishable or potentially detrimental. A sham marriage of this type, known as the lavender marriage
Lavender marriage
Lavender marriage is a type of male-female marriage of convenience in which the couple are not both heterosexual and conceal the homosexual or bisexual orientation of one or both spouses...

, may thus create the appearance of heterosexuality. Such marriages may have one heterosexual and one gay partner, or two gay partners. In the case where a gay man marries a woman, the woman is said to be his "beard".

Metaphorical usage

The phrase "marriage of convenience" has also been generalized to mean any partnership between groups or individuals for their mutual (and sometimes illegitimate) benefit, or between groups or individuals otherwise unsuited to working together. An example would be a "National Unity Government
National unity government
A national unity government, government of national unity, or national union government is a broad coalition government consisting of all parties in the legislature, usually formed during a time of war or other national emergency.- Canada :During World War I the Conservative government of Sir...

", as existed in Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 during much of the 1980s or in Second World War Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

. More specifically, cohabitation
Cohabitation (government)
Cohabitation in government occurs in semi-presidential systems, such as France's system, when the President is from a different political party than the majority of the members of parliament. It occurs because such a system forces the president to name a premier that will be acceptable to the...

 refers to a political situation which can occur in countries with a semi-presidential system
Semi-presidential system
The semi-presidential system is a system of government in which a president and a prime minister are both active participants in the day-to-day administration of the state...

 (especially France), where the president and the prime minister belong to opposed political camps.

Political marriage

Some marriages in medieval times were marriages of convenience, such as that of Agnes of Courtenay
Agnes of Courtenay
Agnes of Courtenay was the daughter of Joscelin II of Courtenay by his wife Beatrice , and the mother of king Baldwin IV of Jerusalem and queen Sibylla of Jerusalem.-Dynasty:...

. Also called a marriage of state
Marriage of state
A marriage of state in ancient use is a diplomatic marriage or union between two members of different nation-states or internally, between two power blocks, usually in authoritarian societies and is a practice which dates back into pre-history, as far back as early Grecian cultures in western...


Further reading

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