LEGAL EAGLE: Nikah marriage and rules for recognition in the UK

A bride folds her hands decorated with henna and jewellery at her Nikah. Photo by Behrouz Mehri/AFP via Getty ImagesA bride folds her hands decorated with henna and jewellery at her Nikah. Photo by Behrouz Mehri/AFP via Getty Images
A bride folds her hands decorated with henna and jewellery at her Nikah. Photo by Behrouz Mehri/AFP via Getty Images
My husband and I had a Nikah 14 years ago in Pakistan. We then moved to the UK and have lived here for the last 10 years but have now separated and my husband has applied for an Islamic divorce in the UK, but I do not know if I also need to have a UK divorce.

Firstly, Nikahs are not a legally recognised form of marriage in the UK. This is because a Nikah is a legal marriage under Sharia Law and the UK does not recognise Sharia Law.

If you had a Nikah in the UK, you would still need to register the marriage under UK law for it to be a legal marriage. If you do not register it, then you would not be legally married and therefore would not require a UK divorce upon separation. An Islamic divorce would then be sufficient to end this type of marriage.

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However, if you were married in a country where a Nikah is a legally recognised marriage (i.e. countries which recognise Sharia Law) such as Pakistan, and then you move to the UK, your marriage will be legally recognised in the UK.

If you obtained an Islamic divorce, you will still be legally married in the UK as the UK does not recognise Islamic divorces. You therefore will need to have a UK divorce.

If you and your estranged husband are habitually resident in the UK, which appears to be the case as you have been resident in the UK for the last 10 years, then you are entitled to a UK divorce.

A UK divorce and Islamic divorce must be obtained separately.

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Islamic divorces can be done by either obtaining a Khula or a Faskh-e-Nikah. A Khula divorce is done by mutual consent whereas a Faskh-e-Nikah is done by applying to the Sharia Council without the husband’s consent.

A UK divorce is done by applying to the HMCTS Divorce and Dissolution Service. For divorces after 6 April 2022, the process is now completely online. The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 also introduced the ‘No Fault Divorce’ system. This has simplified the process as you no longer need to prove a ‘fault’, i.e. a reason, for the divorce.

We at Ben Hoare Bell LLP have the appropriate expertise in assisting with divorces. Please contact us on 0191 565 3112 or [email protected] for advice.

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