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Insights // 24 September 2021

Are Foreign Marriages Recognised in the UK?

Tasha Bevan-Stewart and Natasha Hood, in our Family Law team, explain how foreign marriages are recognised and treated in the UK.

Recognition of foreign marriages in Family Law

Do courts in England and Wales recognise foreign marriages? Will courts allow me to divorce here if I got married overseas?

These are questions that might arise if you are contemplating divorce but got married in another country.

Typically, courts in England and Wales recognise foreign marriages if the marriage is a legally recognised marriage in the country where you were married (this may include marriages formed by local customs), both parties had capacity to get married and the marriage was permitted by the country.

Whilst the law in England and Wales prevents marriages from close relations and marriages where one party is already married, your marriage may still be recognised in England and Wales if the marriage is legal in the country where the marriage occurred and if the marriage is permitted by the law of the country in which the parties are domiciled (i.e. the country of your permanent home or to which you intend to return).

If you get married abroad the marriage does not need to be, nor can it be, registered in England and Wales. As such, it is important to have evidence of the marriage, which will generally be in the form of a marriage certificate.

Is it possible to marry abroad and divorce in England and Wales?

In most cases it is possible to issue divorce proceedings in England and Wales even if you were married abroad. Proceedings may be issued in England and Wales if the marriage was lawful in the country where the marriage took place and one of the following conditions apply:

Both you and your spouse are habitually resident in England and Wales; Both you and your spouse were last habitually resident in England and Wales, and one of you still resides here; Your spouse is habitually resident in England and Wales; You are habitually resident in England and Wales and have resided here for a year; You are habitually resident in England and Wales and have resided here for 6 months and you are also domiciled in England and Wales; Both you and your spouse are domiciled in England and Wales.

You are habitually resident in the country where you have established a permanent home or where you spend most of your time.

If you meet any one of the above conditions you are entitled to issue apply for a divorce in England and Wales. You may find our blog article, 'Overseas Divorce, Annulment or Legal Separation' of interest. Please see our blog article, ‘A Helpful Guide to Divorce’ for more information.

For further information or legal advice, please contact law@blandy.co.uk or call 0118 951 6800. 

This article is intended for the use of clients and other interested parties. The information contained in it is believed to be correct at the date of publication, but it is necessarily of a brief and general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional advice.

Tasha Bevan-Stewart

Tasha Bevan-Stewart

Partner, Family Law

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Natasha Hood

Natasha Hood

Trainee Solicitor

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