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Clarke & Son Blog​

Know your legal rights

As a result of the lockdown, people wishing to enter in to the world of matrimony have been very creative in hosting their perfect day at home.  While in some cultures it has always been conventional to do so, there has most certainly been a significant increase in people getting married at home as a result of the lockdown imposed by Covid-19.

At present, a wedding must be either a religious ceremony (Church wedding) or a civil ceremony.  For religious weddings, the ceremony must take place at a registered religious building.  For civil ceremonies, the ceremony must take place at a registered office or a venue approved by the local Council.  For those who enter into, say, an Islamic marriage ceremony at home have the freedom to get married, but are not afforded the legal protection under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.  In order for the union to be legally recognised as a marriage under English law, the couple would need to enter in to a civil ceremony.

If the parties enter in to an Islamic ceremony only then they will be recognised as cohabitees and therefore will have no marriage rights in the unfortunate event of a breakdown of the relationship.  This of course has a detrimental impact on the division of finances where parties only have recourse under civil claims as opposed to the Matrimonial Causes Act, which offers greater protection for married couples. For example:

  1. When a spouse leaves their job to stay at home to become the homemaker and be the children’s primary carer so that the other spouse can focus on building their carer and therefore their earning capacity, the law generally recognises the homemaker’s contribution by ordering a fair share of the assets and income on divorce. Conversely, as cohabitees, the same protection is not afforded and any such contribution by the homemaker on the breakdown of the relationship is not taken into account.
  • On the death of a spouse, the surviving spouse will automatically inherit some of the estate and will have the legal right to claim against the estate if reasonable provision has not been made under the Will.  On the other hand, a cohabitee could potentially receive nothing by way of inheritance unless the deceased cohabitee made provision for them under their Will. This is the case even if the parties had been living together as man and wife and had children together. While there is provision for the cohabiting partner to claim against the estate, it is dependent on meeting a set criteria. More importantly, a successful claim will still be less generous in comparison to if the parties had been married.
  • Married couples on divorce can make a claim for a number of financial orders such as spousal maintenance and a pension share. However, cohabitees are not able to make such claims even if the parties had been living together as a married couple and had children together.

The above list is by no means exhaustive and there are other ways in which you will be placed at a financial detriment if you entered into an Islamic ceremony only.   

Therefore, if you are considering getting married at home as a result of coronavirus or even when the pandemic is over then you must carefully consider your legal rights before entering into a ceremony which is unlikely to protect you in the future.  You should also carefully consider the recourse that you would have in the unfortunate event of a breakdown of the relationship having entered into a religious ceremony at home only.  If you are considering entering into a marriage with your nearest and dearest at home, our team of expert family lawyers are at hand to advise you to ensure that your legal rights are protected. 

If you have a query or would like to book an appointment, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our team over the telephone on 01256 320555 or by email mail@clarkeandson.co.uk

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