How Do You Know If Your Nikah Is Legally Recognised in England?
We’re often asked whether English law recognises a nikah as a valid marrige. Why does it matter? You may have no legal protection if your relationship ends. So everyone should know if their nikah is legally recognised under English law. In this post, we share an overview of what you need to know – and five steps to protect yourself.
No-one starts their married life thinking about what happens if it ends. In our experience as family law specialists, you need to plan ahead. So many of our clients didn’t expect their marriage to end. Unfortunately they realise too late, that their nikah gave them no legal protection. In one case, a client raised her children and didn’t work. When her husband ended the marriage, she risked losing her home. Why? Her nikah took place in England and was not registered. She had no automatic protection under the law as a wife. An unregistered nikah could be a non-marriage under English law. A religious marriage such as a nikah is only a valid marriage if it takes place in a registered building.
So what can you do to protect yourself? Follow our five steps below.
STEP ONE: Where Did Your Marriage Take Place?
If your nikah took place in England & Wales, check your venue is a registered building. If it isn’t, you will need to register your marriage through a further civil ceremony. You are then married under English law. You will have legal protection if your marriage ends or your partner passes away. If you’re still planning your nikah, check whether your venue is a registered building. Or have a registrar present.
What if your marriage took place abroad? English law recognises overseas marriages in certain circumstances. Is the nikah recognised as a valid marriage in that country? If it is, then it is also a valid marriage under English law when you return to England. When you register the nikah overseas, check that the ceremony is valid in that country.
STEP TWO: What Happens if Your Nikah Is Not Recognised Under English Law?
Under English law, couples who do not have a registered marriage are a “co-habiting couple.” The law considers your marriage a ‘non-marriage.’ It is not recognised as legally valid. This means you will not have the same rights as a couple in a civil marriage. If you divorce or your spouse dies, you will have less rights e.g. access to pensions and benefits.
STEP THREE: Can You File for Divorce in England if Your Nikah is not legally recognised?
The short answer is no, but it depends.
You cannot file for divorce in an English court if your nikah took place in an unregistered building in the UK. That’s because the law views your marriage as a ‘non-marriage.’ You can read more about the court’s position on nikah’s and ‘non-marriage’ here. What happens in this situation? Unfortunately, the court has no power to afford financial provision. Or to override the strict legal ownership of property. At this stage, the only dissolution of your marriage is under Shariah law.
If you performed your nikah overseas, you can get a divorce in an English court. As we said earlier, this only applies if your nikah ceremony is valid in that country. This is an important point. Your nikah is a valid marriage under English law. If your relationship ends, you need to file for a civil divorce to end the marriage under English Law. Which brings us to Islamic divorce.
STEP FOUR: Who Can File For An Islamic Divorce Application?
Either a husband or wife can file for an Islamic divorce. Some clients get a civil divorce (Decree Absolute) but their husband refuses to give them a Talaq. A wife can start an application for an Islamic divorce. One such process is Khula. We offer a fixed fee Khula application service for £600 (+VAT). We can guide on your options and prepare an application in line with Islamic principles. SKB Law works with a confidential and trusted local Shariah Council. If you need advice, please call our team on 01274 727373.
STEP FIVE: What Are Your Rights If Your Spouse Dies?
Dying isn’t something anyone wants to think about. But it’s something you need to consider. What happens if your spouse dies and your marriage is not recognised under English law? Any assets they own will go into the estate of the deceased and divided amongst other family members. For example their brothers, sisters or parents may inherit the assets. Another reason why you should make sure your marriage is legally recognised in the UK.
We hope you’ve found this post helpful. Please note this is general guidance. If you need support or have a question, book your free 15 minute legal advice call today or contact us on WhatsApp Business 07999 363105. Everything you share is treated in confidence.
SKB Law is led by Sarah Khan-Bashir MBE – a solicitor with over 20 years experience in family and civil law matters. Our team supports clients across England & Wales with divorce, finances, children’s matters, religious marriages, wills and immigration.