There are a number of aspects to Asian and Islamic marriages which make them unique. It, therefore, follows that if your marriage breaks down, you will need specialist advice from a Solicitor, who has knowledge in dealing with such cases.  At Sultan Lloyd Solicitors, our family law team, led by Nighat Sultana, has the experience and expertise to advise you on any issues you may have surrounding Islamic marriages.

Do you require legal advice about Asian or Islamic marriages?  Then call our Birmingham office today on 01212482850 to make an appointment with one of our highly-qualified Solicitors.

Is my Islamic Marriage recognised in the UK?

An Islamic marriage will only be recognised as valid in this country if it meets the following requirements:

•  Both the husband and wife must have agreed to the marriage.

•  At the ceremony, there must have been two adult witnesses present.

•  The groom must have paid a mahr (a marriage gift) to the bride.

• The ceremony must have taken place in a country which recognises Islamic marriages as valid under Sharia Law.

Because the laws of England and Wales do not recognise Sharia law, an Islamic marriage ceremony that takes place in England will not be recognised as valid unless it is registered. An Islamic marriage can be registered at a certified mosque or the civil registry office.

If an Islamic marriage takes place abroad in a country which does not recognise Sharia law, then the marriage will not be viewed as valid in the UK. It is, however, possible to register the marriage at a later date at a certified mosque or civil registry office.  This will ensure it is recognised in this country.

What rights do I have if my marriage is not recognised in the UK?

If you do not have a valid marriage then in the eyes of the law you and your partner will be treated as cohabitees. This means that upon separation you will not have any right to claim financial provision for your own benefit or to make the claims that could usually be made under the matrimonial legislation for things such as a share of your partner’s pension or a share of a property that you have not contributed anything towards.

There are some limited laws available to cohabitees that have separated. If one party can show that there was a common intention that they would have an interest in a property owned solely by the other and they have paid towards that property on the understanding that they were entitled to a share, then they might be able to recover some money.

Financial support will be payable for children whether you were married or not.  The Child Maintenance Options or the Child Maintenance Service can assist with this. It is also possible for one party to claim financial provision for a child over and above child maintenance by using a piece of law known as Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989. However, it should be noted that cases brought under this legislation are rare and specialist advice should be sought.

Is a talaq recognised in the UK?

If you get a talaq in this country for a marriage that was recognised as valid in the UK, then you will still be classed as married. This means that you will not be able to remarry or bring a new spouse to the UK. To become legally divorced under UK law, you will need to obtain a Decree Absolute from the Courts. However, if you get a talaq in a country that recognises Sharia law and your divorce is recognised in that country, then you will be classed as divorced in the UK. Provided you meet certain jurisdictional requirements you may be able to bring a financial claim in this country under Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984, even though your divorce took place abroad.

What happens to the gold and jewellery if we divorce?

Asian gold has a high purity and can be very valuable. In many cases that we deal with, gold is the most valuable asset after any properties or pensions. Very often the wife will hold the majority of the gold but the husband will say that any gold gifted to the wife by his family should be returned if the couple divorce. The first point to note is that under UK law when you give a gift to someone then the recipient becomes the absolute owner. However, this does not mean that the jewellery or gold is not taken into account when a financial settlement is negotiated. It is an asset forming part of the matrimonial pot and it needs to be disclosed. It will then be added to the list of all the assets and the Judge or the parties themselves will decide how all the assets should be divided up in a fair manner.

In a very simplistic example, if a husband and wife own a house which has equity of £100,000.00 and the wife has gold worth £50,000.00 then the total assets are £150,000.00. If a Judge decides that the assets should be split 50/50 between the parties, then they will each receive £75,000.00. If the Wife wants to keep her gold worth £50,000.00, then she should only receive £25,000.00 from the proceeds of the sale of the house.

What if I am getting divorced and the gold and jewellery has been taken?

Unfortunately, this is a very common problem in Asian divorces. We frequently come across cases where both parties insist that the other has taken all the gold or jewellery or one party denies having any gold or jewellery of any value. The first thing to say is that prevention is better than cure. If you or your spouse have valuable jewellery, then make sure you keep the receipts for it. Take photos of each piece including photos of the owner wearing it and it is worth having it valued now and again.

If an issue arises concerning who has the gold or what the value of any gold is then it might become necessary for both parties to file Affidavits setting out their arguments. The Judge will read those Affidavits and will listen to oral evidence from both parties before deciding whether the gold is in existence, who has it and what valuations can reasonably be attached to it.

What if there is property abroad?

Sometimes in cases of Asian divorces one party will have kept close ties with their country of birth or the country that their ancestors originated from. Properties and or land in those countries might have been passed down through the generations or one of the parties might have invested in new property or land there. When financial proceedings are brought in this country all property, land and other assets must be disclosed whether they are located abroad or in the UK. The eventual financial settlement should take into account all the assets and if one party is going to retain valuable property overseas then the other should receive more of the assets that are based in the UK.

In some cases, one of the parties might try to suggest that they have no financial interest in a property located abroad and that the property is owned by a friend or family member. When these situations arise it is important to look at the historical course of dealings in relation to that property and ultimately a Judge will decide whether he or she thinks it is an asset in which one of the parties has a financial interest.

When property is located abroad and it is only registered in the name of one of the parties it is important to take legal advice from an expert in the laws of that country about what can be done to prevent the property being sold, transferred or otherwise disposed of whilst the case is ongoing.

How We Can Help

At Sultan Lloyd Solicitors, we have years of experience in advising clients on Islamic marriage issues.  Our family law services are provided in complete confidence and handled in a sensitive, empathetic manner. To make an appointment to talk to one of our Solicitors, please phone our Birmingham office on 01212482850 or email [email protected] today.

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