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Family and divorce

Islamic marriage ceremony ruled as void marriage

Toby Yerburgh comments on the Court of Appeal overturning a High Court judgement last week (14/02/20), ruling that a religious Nikah ceremony is a void marriage.



In what is being described as a “landmark” ruling, the Court of Appeal overturned a High Court judgement last week (14/02/20), ruling that a religious Nikah ceremony is a void marriage.

The case relates to the separation of Nasreen Akhter and Mohammed Shabaz Khan. The couple married in 1998 with an Islamic marriage ceremony known as a Nikah. They married at a restaurant in London. Knowing the ceremony had no legal effect, the couple planned to follow it up with a civil ceremony, but never did so. The couple went on to have four children.

Upon their separation in 2016, Ms Akhter petitioned for a divorce, but Mr Khan contested this, stating they were never legally married.

Despite the High Court ruling otherwise, the Court of Appeal judged that as the religious ceremony did not take place in a building registered for wedding, nor was there a registrar present or a marriage certificate issued, the ceremony had no legal effect.

Toby Yerburgh, head of Family at Collyer Bristow, notes a significant anomaly in the judgement:

“Upon divorce, couples who marry abroad in a country where Nikahs are recognised are able to make financial claims against each other in the UK, but when the ceremony takes place here, they are not. This could lead to gross unfairness for women who innocently agree to such marriages here only to find themselves without a financial claim when their relationship ends. This is compounded by the continuing lack of legal protection for cohabitees. Parliament has no excuse for ignoring these issues any longer.”

Content sourced from article first published on EPrivateClient in February 2020 (subscription required).



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Toby Yerburgh

Partner - Head of Family Law