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Are you really married?

For a marriage to be legally recognised in England and Wales you have to have complied with certain formalities (see my previous article about the differences between marriage and living together).

In the recent case of Akhter v Khan, the Court decided held that as the parties had gone through a Muslim wedding ceremony in England (the Nikah) but had not formally registered their marriage with a Registrar, they could not be held to be married under English law. The important question was could the marriage be deemed to be:

  • void (and therefore she could apply for a decreed of nullity) , or

(b)  was it “non-marriage” for legal purposes?

It was a hugely important point as the wife could apply for a share of the husband’s finances if they had a void marriage, but would be entitled to nothing if they had a non-marriage.

The Court decided that each case would depend on each family’s circumstances but that they should take into account, among other things :(a) whether the ceremony they went through purported to be a legal ceremony and they intended to complete the necessary formalities; (b) whether it was in public with witnesses and promises given (c) whether the key participants intended it to be a legal marriage; (d) whether the failure to complete all the legal formalities was a joint decision or the failure of one person.

In this case the Court decided that the parties had a void marriage because both parties had said they would also go through the civil ceremony and it was only the husband’s refusal to complete this that led to the marriage not being legally valid. The wife therefore could make a financial claim.

If you are in a similar situation and need legal advice then contact Joanna Gardner at or 01905723561

Added: 25 Oct 2018 09:11

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