Family Law Hub

Marital Status

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  • The petitioner was seeking a divorce from the respondent. The parties disagreed over whether an alleged marriage ceremony in the 1980s had ever taken place, and whether it should be recognised as a valid marriage in this jurisdiction. This hearing concerned procedural difficulties stemming from a valid marriage certificate not being attached to the petition. HHJ Moradifar noted that there were many reasons why a valid marriage certificate might not be available, and the FPR clearly contemplated such a situation and provided for it. There was nothing in the FPR or the authorities cited which provided for there being no requirement to file an acknowledgement of service or an answer where a petitioner had not filed a valid marriage certificate. The filing of an answer had a material impact on how a divorce petition would be treated by the court, and not filing one was neither inconsequential nor trivial. Where no answer had been filed and served, the petitioner would be permitted to apply for a decree in divorce and associated costs. Given the respondent's continuing failure to engage with and address the procedural defects in his case, the balance of fairness, justice and proportionality demanded that the petitioner’s application be granted. The case would be listed for a pronouncement of a decree nisi. Judgment, 20/12/2020, free
  • The Attorney General appealed from a decision to pronounce a decree nisi of nullity following a marriage ceremony which the parties had known was of no legal effect. The petitioner and respondent had reached an agreed settlement, so arguments on matters of law were made on behalf of the first intervener, a petitioner in separate nullity proceedings. The issues were whether there could be ceremonies or other acts which do not create a marriage, even a void marriage, within the scope of section 11 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973; and if there could be, whether this had been such a ceremony, currently described as a non-marriage, or whether instead, as Williams J had decided, it had created a void marriage. Sir Terence Etherton MR (the Master of the Rolls), King LJ DBE and Moylan LJ set aside the judge's order as there was, in this case, no ceremony in respect of which a decree of nullity could be granted pursuant to the provisions of section 11. The judge's approach was supported by neither the European Convention on Human Rights nor the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1990. Judgment, 28/05/2020, free
  • An application for a declaration in relation to the marital status of the parties pursuant to section 55 of the Family Law Act 1986. The male partner was a Dutch national. The female partner was from Somaliland. An issue had arisen as to whether their marriage in Somaliland was entitled to formal recognition in England and Wales. Roberts J found that the couple were validly married according to the law of Somaliland. Somaliland had not been recognised as a state by the British Government, but the Foreign & Commonwealth Office informed the judge that the Government would be unlikely to object to recognition on those grounds. The declaration sought was granted: the parties were validly married. Judgment, 27/01/2020, free
  • The former husband applied to set aside part of a consent order relating to maintenance payments. The former wife cross-appealed for enforcement of maintenance arrears. The husband claimed that the consent order had been fraudulently changed without his knowledge, and that his wife had sent emails in his name to the firm involved in drafting the consent order. In emails to her the husband had expressed his belief that the maintenance changes were a mere "paperwork exercise" to enable her to get a new mortgage. Moor J found that the expert handwriting evidence as to the signature on the consent order was of no assistance, but he was satisfied that the wife had perpetrated a fraud on the husband, and that she had sent fraudulent emails on his behalf. The relevant paragraph of the order was set aside, and replaced with a clean break order. The wife owed the husband £248,930 from the sale of the matrimonial home, to be paid within 28 days. Judgment, 11/12/2019, free
  • An application was made for recognition of a 2009 marriage as valid. The applicant, born female, had lived as a man from 1990, but had not obtained a Gender Recognition Certificate once they became available in 2005, and hence was still legally female at the time of the marriage, when same sex marriage was not yet legal. This had caused problems with the Department of Work and Pensions regarding pension entitlement. Cobb J considered the case law and stated that, both now and at the time of the marriage in 2009, the applicant must be treated by the court as being legally a woman. The United Kingdom had not failed to provide a legal mechanism for the recognition of the relationship, since the couple could enter a civil partnership, marry as a same-sex couple, or marry as an opposite-sex couple after obtaining a gender recognition certificate. At the relevant time a marriage between two female partners was void at its inception and the court did not have the power to make the declaration sought. Judgment, 28/11/2019, free

Latest know-how

  • In a tweet: s.11 MCA 1973 could be interpreted sufficiently flexibly so as to find that an Islamic faith ceremony created a void rather than a non-marriage Case note, 26/10/2018, members only
  • Whether there was a valid marriage under English law Case note, 16/06/2015, members only
  • Judgment concerning correct treatment of inherited wealth and post-separation accrual. Case note, 17/03/2015, members only
  • Decision on nature of a ceremony which took place in a Syriac Orthodox Church in Syria and whether the Petitioner was entitled to a decree of divorce, nullity or no remedy at all. A decree of nullity was made. Case note, 18/02/2014, free
  • LA seeking a declaration of non-recognition of a marriage which had taken place in Pakistan against the will of the girl, who was 14 at the time and soon after became pregnant. Case note, 14/01/2014, free

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