Unrecognised States and Marriages

13th March 2020

In the normal course of events a marriage abroad that fulfils the legal requirements of that country would be entitled to recognition as a valid marriage under English domestic law, but the recent case of MM v NA brought forth a unique question; can a marriage be valid if you are married in a state not formally recognised under English law?

In this case the parties in question were married in Somaliland in 2013 and eventually settled in the UK, including having a daughter in 2016. It was whilst filing official forms the question was raised as to whether their marriage was valid.

MM applied for a declaration in relation to the parties’ marital status, pursuant to S.55 of the Family Law Act 1986.

Usually the Court would only be concerned with the manner in which the ceremony took place and ensuring that the marriage was allowed between the two individuals (not related). However, in this case the issue related to the fact that acts of a government of an unrecognised state cannot be recognised by an English Court.

There was some leeway and the English Courts must be aware of governmental act of unrecognised stated which directly affect family or property rights of individuals, as a result the Court found that the marriage could be legally recognised by the English Courts.

If you are thinking of getting married abroad then our family team recommend that you double check that the state you are getting married in is officially recognised by the UK Government. Whilst this case shows that it may not be a barrier to you having full rights in the English Courts it could save a lot of trouble and hassle by confirming this in advance.

Our experienced Family Team are always on hand to help wherever possible and can be contacted on 01892 824 577 or on family@burtons-solicitors.com.