K v K in 2016 [EWHC 3380 (Fam)]

This involved a ceremony in London and a later one in Pakistan.

The parties, in this case, had initially undergone a religious ceremony of marriage in a mosque in London in 1999. The wife stated that she was unaware that the husband was married at the time. The husband said that she was aware. It was considered that the first marriage of the husband subsisted until 2015 when his first wife passed away. In any event, both parties agreed that the 1999 ceremony in a mosque in London was a non-marriage.

The wife stated that on 15th August 2003, she and the husband had spoken to an Imam in Pakistan by telephone. She claimed that during this telephone call, the formalities of an Islamic marriage were completed and that an Islamic marriage contract was drawn up at a later ceremony in Pakistan in a property owned by the husband. The wife stated that as part of this process the husband had confirmed that he was free to marry. The husband denied that there was such a ceremony in 2003.

The judge preferred the evidence of the wife and as a result was satisfied that a telephone conversation took place on 15th August 2003. At the time of this telephone conversation the parties were present in London, and an Imam and some future witnesses were in Pakistan. It was further accepted that arrangements were made for the nikah ceremony to take place.

The judge also accepted that the parties did attend a form of ceremony in Pakistan at in a property belonging to the husband. This ceremony purported the effect of a marriage and the formal process of an offer and acceptance took place. Following this, a nikah document was formally signed in front of witnesses. Furthermore, that the wife believed that the husband was divorced from his first wife and as a result and with effect from on or about 28th August, she was lawfully married to the husband.

The 2003 marriage was never registered with the authorities in Pakistan. The husband also failed to notify his first wife that he was going to contract a polygamous marriage, a requirement in Pakistan. Had these two formalities been complied with, there would have been a strong case for recognition of the 2003 ceremony as a valid marriage and the wife could have petitioned for divorce.

As a result of these two issues, the religious ceremony did not give rise to a valid civil marriage in Pakistan. The judge believed the wife’s evidence over the husband’s and accepted that the parties had intended and believed that the event in 2003 was a valid ceremony of marriage. This highly material factor resulted in the judge being completely satisfied that the wife was entitled to the decree of nullity which she sought and thus could apply for financial relief in the English courts.