If you got married in an Islamic wedding ceremony in the UK or overseas, are you treated as legally married in England? Can you get divorced in the UK?
The divorce solicitors at Evolve Family Law answer your questions on Islamic marriage and divorce in the UK.
For expert family law advice call our team or complete our online enquiry form.
Islamic marriage in the UK
Whether your Nikah is classed as a legal marriage and recognised in English family law depends on where and how the marriage took place.
A Nikah that took place in the UK is not treated as a legal marriage unless there was also a valid UK civil ceremony. If you had a Nikah in the UK without a civil ceremony it is best to check with a family law solicitor to see if you are legally married or not under English law. It is important to check this out and, if necessary, get married legally under UK law. That’s because if you are not legally married under English family law you do not have the financial rights and claims of a husband or wife but of an unmarried partner.
If your Nikah took place overseas you are treated as legally married in the UK provided the country where you got married treats Islamic marriages or Nikahs as legally valid. That means you do not need to have a civil wedding ceremony in the UK as you are already legally married.
Family law solicitors acknowledge that the UK family law on the validity of Islamic marriages can be confusing. The English court does have the power to declare that you are legally married if there is a dispute but it is best to avoid declaration proceedings unless there is no alternative. For example, if your spouse is denying your marriage and your financial claims as a spouse.
Divorce in the UK
If you are legally married and you want to get divorced you can apply for a no-fault divorce. If your wedding was a Nikah under Sharia law and it took place in England without a civil marriage then you won't need to apply for a no-fault divorce as you are not treated in English law as legally married. You may want to get divorced under Sharia law.
If you thought you were married then it may be worth checking out if you can get a declaration of marriage. That is because:
Under Sharia law your financial claims may be limited
In English law, if you are not legally married, your financial claims as an unmarried husband or wife are limited to property rights and claims under trust law. Instead of being able to claim half the assets you may be able to claim nothing or very little in comparison to the sort of financial settlement a husband or wife might expect the family court to order as a financial court order
The financial claims of an unmarried partner
If your marriage is not legally recognised in the UK, you can potentially make 2 types of claims, depending on whether you have children with your partner.
Under Schedule 1 of the Children Act, you can bring court proceedings for an order to provide your children with a home to live in whilst they are of school age. The ownership of the house will then revert to your partner. You can also ask the court for a lump sum to meet the financial needs of your children and to make a top-up child support order if your partner is a high earner. The Child Maintenance Service may also be able to award you child support.
Whether or not you have children you may be able to make a claim under The Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (TOLATA). You can bring a TOLTA claim if your partner owns a property jointly with you or if they own a property in their sole name but you can evidence that you have what is referred to as a beneficial interest in the property owned by your partner.
Get expert family law legal advice
It is essential that you take expert legal advice on the status of your marriage from specialist family law solicitors. That’s because if your Nikah is a valid marriage (or you can secure a declaration of marriage) you may be able to secure a financial settlement including spousal maintenance, a share in property, savings, a family business or a pension sharing order.
For expert family law advice complete our online enquiry form.