A recent decision has been handed down by the Court of Appeal in the case of Her Majesty’s Attorney General v Akhter and Another regarding whether an Islamic marriage ceremony could constitute a lawful marriage in England and Wales.

Essentially, the parties in the case wed in an Islamic ceremony in a London restaurant in December 1998. The ‘Wife’ tried to file a Divorce Petition at Court in 2016 and the ‘Husband’ stated that they were never legally married. The Court of First Instance took a ‘holistic view’ of the process and stated the ‘Wife’ was entitled to a decree of nullity despite the fact there was no civil ceremony.

The decision of the Court of First Instance was subsequently appealed.

The Court of Appeal decided that at no time did the parties seek to effect a legal marriage and, at all times, both parties and the Imam were aware that for there to be a legal marriage it was necessary for there to be a civil ceremony. The ‘Wife’ tried to convince the Court that hers and her Husband’s intentions about the legal effect of the marriage had changed and they both subsequently wanted the ceremony to be a qualifying one which would make it a legal marriage in the eyes of the law. However, the Court was unconvinced and stated that there was no marriage and therefore she would not be entitled to a Divorce.

As a result of the Court’s decision the ‘Wife’ could not pursue the usual claims that would be available to her upon a Divorce. Therefore, she would be treated as a cohabitee and would only have the limited claims under TLATA and Schedule 1 of the Children Act available to her. For more information about claims available to cohabitees please refer to our previous article: ‘BUSTING MYTHS – ‘I AM A COMMON LAW SPOUSE AND I HAVE THE SAME RIGHTS AS IF WE WERE MARRIED’’.

If you are experiencing difficulties in your relationship and you would like further advice regarding the claims available to a cohabiting couple please speak to a member of our Family Department, either Rebecca Bye, Lachlan Donaldson or Robert Green on 01622 759051 or email info@gillturnertucker.com.