A marriage carried out under foreign law will not be recognised as valid in England and Wales if it could not have been validly contracted under English law.

This was the conclusion of the court after a Bangladeshi couple sought an order that the marriage of their son, in a Bangladeshi ceremony, was a valid marriage under English law. Their son could not marry here as he is autistic and lacks the intellectual capacity necessary to be a party to a valid marriage.

The ceremony was conducted over the telephone, he being in England at the time and his bride in Bangladesh.

The judge concluded that the ceremony was void under English law and the man’s parents appealed.

The Court of Appeal considered that the rules governing domiciliaries of two countries applied but those rules could not help validate the marriage under English law. Nor could public policy considerations be ignored – not every marriage contracted validly abroad was entitled to be recognised as valid by the English court. Indeed, the actions of the man’s parents were potentially, if not actually, abusive to him and the court had the duty to protect him from that abuse.