Stuart Clark looks behind the headlines of a concerning story about divorce practices and considers the impact of recognition of religious marriage arrangements in England and Wales and abroad.
A BBC investigation has found that there is a growing number of online services charging Muslim women to take part in “halala” Islamic marriages. The report, found here, describes the practice by which wives divorced under a triple talaq will marry a third party, consummate that marriage, divorce and then re-marry their former husband. The report goes on to say that the practice is accepted by a minority of Muslims. It stems from the practice whereby a man cannot re-marry a woman after a triple talaq unless she has consummated a second marriage with another man from whom she then divorces. It often occurs when spouses wish to reconcile following a triple talaq.
The report expresses concerns about the potential for abuse, particularly by online providers which charge for the services of a halala marriage. Large sums of money can often be handed over by women seeking to get back with their former husband. In some communities this is seen as the only route by which to do so.
Whilst we are sensitive to the religious beliefs and practices which underpin halala marriages, we must be alert to abuse or exploitation or where these practices can cause personal legal disadvantages.
From a legal standpoint, a divorce by triple talaq which takes place in England and Wales will not be recognised by the English Courts as constituting a legal divorce. In other words the spouses will still be married under English law and any subsequent marriage thereafter may be considered to be bigamous and potentially void.
The situation is somewhat different if a talaq or triple talaq is pronounced abroad and in a country in which it is recognised as legally ending the marriage with a state registration system. This is beyond the scope of this blog piece.
The recognition of a marriage and/or a divorce in the context of a participant’s religious community may not match the formal recognition of a marriage and/or a divorce in civil law. We appreciate that a person and a community may consider spouses to be divorced even if the law of England and Wales does not. Care may need be taken to ensure that there is no contradiction between the religious and legal positions of a marriage. At The International Family Law Group LLP we are of course sensitive to these issues.
We suggest that anyone who has concerns about the legal status of their marriage, whether owing to a religious pronouncement of divorce or a divorce by any other means whether domestically or overseas, contacts us. This is often a complicated area of law for which specialist advice should be taken to avoid unwanted outcomes.
We are regularly asked by clients and lawyers and institutions around the world to comment on recognition of foreign marriages and divorces.
Stuart Clark is an Associate Solicitor at iFLG, and has a wide breath of experience in all issues arising from the breakdown of a relationship but particularly specialises in financial and forum matters. His work involves complicated trust and partnership issues when often quick advice needs to be obtained from a specialist lawyer in another jurisdiction to run concurrently to his cases in hand.
The International Family Law Group LLP
© 6 April 2017