Are Islamic religious marriages valid in England and Wales?

24th February 2020

Judgment was handed down in the case of Akhter v Khan recently, confirming that religious marriage ceremonies performed in England and Wales are not valid marriages.

What did the case decide?

The Court of Appeal overturned a decision to allow religious marriages performed in England or Wales by an Imam to be recognised as valid marriages. Therefore, services carried out by an Imam, even if recorded in a Nikah, will not be recognised by the Courts as a marriage unless the parties also get married via civil marriage ceremony, resulting in an official marriage certificate.

What does this mean for Islamic religious marriages?

Parties who are married in accordance with Islamic laws only will not be able to rely on the rights that married couples have in relation to financial matters. This may mean that one party may be in a financially stronger position than the other, and that there may be no way to address this. This will include maintenance for a husband or wife, claims to any pensions, and potential claims in relation to the family home. In extreme situations, it may mean that one spouse is not able to rehouse, or be able to afford their monthly outgoings.

There will still be mechanisms under which children may be financially provided for, however, making applications to the Court under such rules may be more risky, and will only be available whilst the children remain minors or in full time education.

What should parties consider?

Parties marrying under Islamic laws should consider getting married via a civil marriage ceremony, resulting in an official marriage certificate.

Parties in the process of separating should seek financial advice at the earliest opportunity in order to determine their options.

For further information regarding Islamic religious marriages and ceremonies in England and Wales, please contact the Family team at Blake Morgan.

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