Marriages overseas and divorce for Muslims

Provided that a marriage was lawful in the country where it was finalised and the neither of the spouses were prevented from marrying due to their own domestic laws, the UK courts will consider the marriage to be legitimate as long as it is not deemed to harm the public interest.

As a result, even though polygamy is illegal in the UK, a polygamous marriage granted legally overseas would still be recognised in the UK. It would then come down to immigration controls being used to prevent the polygamous partner entering the UK.

Therefore, in the vast majority of instances, UK law will recognise a marriage made lawfully in an overseas jurisdiction. Therefore an Islamic marriage finalised in Pakistan for example would be considered valid in the UK provided that there were no issues regarding age or divorce.

Telephone marriages however are not considered legitimate if one partner’s domicile is in the UK. Domicileis crucial because it implies a permanent place of residence. Whilst people have a domicile origin, which is in most cases the country of birth, domicile can be changed later on, although this can be a difficult process. Domicile therefore tends to change over time depending on how long the individual spends in a particular country and other factors.

Provided that a divorce overseas is legal in that country, it will also be deemed valid in most cases in the UK. The divorce country must be a jurisdiction that recognises divorce though and the parties to the divorce must have been living outside the UK for the year prior to the divorce.

Islamic divorce, or Talaq, brought in the UK is not accepted under UK law. Instead, those in England and Wales must obtain a divorce through the county courts. However, UK immigration services would recognise a Talaq finalised in Algeria for example.

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