Nikah – are you legally married?

Jan 5, 2019

Are you legally married? This article seeks to explain the laws relating to Islamic marriage, Nikaah ceremonies, and legally valid marriages. If you have any questions, book your free 15 minute advice session on 01274 727373.  All calls treated are in confidence with appointments available by phone, WhatsApp Business or video.

Are you legally married?

After dealing with hundreds of divorce cases, we’ve noticed a general misconception. Too many clients are unaware of their legal position. We support people who instruct the firm to conduct their Islamic divorce, not realising a civil divorce is also required. Many people fail to recognise that a Nikah can also change your legal status.  Many people believe a Nikah alone is sufficient to start married life in England. However, if your marriage breaks down, a Nikah will not provide the same level of legal protection as a registered civil ceremony.

No Right to Assets

In a recent case, a client’s marriage ended after 15 years. She was left with no automatic right over her husband’s assets. This is because they had not registered their marriage after performing the Nikah in the UK.  Many of these clients are women who stayed at home in order to look after the household and raise their children. They relied on their partner to financially support them. Without a legally valid marriage, if the marriage fails or their partner dies, your legal rights are extremely limited. It may also affect your right to inheritance.

What is the legal position when it comes to the Nikah and English Law? 

It depends on where the Nikaah took place. Couples who marry in England and choose to solely participate in a Nikah ceremony will not be classed as “married” under English law. Therefore, they will not acquire the automatic rights granted to married couples under English law. They are regarded as common law partners. By opting to only undergo a Nikah ceremony, couples are in effect denying financial security and other advantages which come from having a civil marriage. A Nikah ceremony in England fulfils the religious aspect for religious marriages. It does not satisfy the requirements for a legal marriage under English law.

So when is a Nikah classed as a valid marriage under English law? 

A Nikah which takes place abroad in an Islamic country will be accepted to be a valid marriage under English law. Therefore there is no requirement to undergo a civil ceremony.

Please note bigamy and polygamy are a criminal offence in the UK. Too often, clients are unaware they are about to commit a criminal offence. On a number of occasions, our clients have obtained an Islamic divorce for a marriage which took place overseas i.e. in Pakistan. They later decide to re-marry.  As the marriage took place overseas, the Islamic divorce does not terminate the marriage. They also require a civil divorce. To be clear, if you want to re-marry, you need a civil divorce. Failure to obtain one can result in criminal prosecution under English law.

If you have any questions or concerns relating to this article, please contact our team in confidence on 01274 727373.

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