When is a marriage not a marriage…?

It may come as a surprise to many that simply entering into a religious wedding ceremony does not constitute a legal marriage in the eyes of the UK law.

Recent research has shown a key misunderstanding in this respect, meaning that a large number of parties to Islamic marriages have not undertaken the necessary requirements in order to legalise their marriage. This means that upon breakdown of the marriage, the parties are not afforded the financial rights and protection that would be available to married individuals.

If an Islamic marriage is not considered legal, it does not need to be dissolved by the standard divorce procedure. Instead, the ‘triple talaq’ process can be invoked, leaving wives in circumstances of grave hardship without recourse to the Family Court in order to obtain a financial settlement.

It would still be open for parties to make an application via the Civil Court, however this will not be in relation to all assets and will not be determined in accordance with the factors that a Family Court would consider. Instead, any entitlement to property would be based upon different legal principles related to contributions and intentions, rather than fairness or need.

With 6 in 10 Muslim women not entering into legally recognised marriages, this is an issue that clearly needs wider publicity so that both men and women are aware of their rights and can take steps to ensure their personal and financial circumstances are secure.

Six in 10 women in the UK who have had a traditional Muslim wedding ceremony are not in legally recognised marriages, depriving them of rights and protection, according to a survey.

It found that nearly all married Muslim women have had a nikah, a religious marriage ceremony, but 61% had not gone through a separate civil ceremony which would make the marriage legal under UK law.

If the marriage breaks down, women who have only had a nikah are unable to go to the family court to seek a division of assets, such as the family home and spouse’s pension.