I got married abroad – is my marriage valid in the UK?

More couples are choosing to marry in exotic locations or in their country of origin.

Prior to considering marrying abroad, you should research the correct procedure for marriage in accordance with the law of the relevant country and if necessary, seek legal advice.

Should couples who marry abroad subsequently separate, it is important to establish the validity of the marriage as this will impact on divorce, financial remedies, legitimacy of children and wills and inheritance.

The marriage will be recognised as valid by the English Court provided:-

  1. The marriage ceremony must be a valid form of marriage by the law of the country of celebration;
  2. The marriage must comply with all procedures and regulations under the law of the country of celebration;
  3. Each party must have capacity to marry (under the law of the country where they are domiciled);
  4. Any previous marriage of either party must have been validly terminated under English Law (a statutory declaration may be required);
  5. There must be evidence of the marriage, in the form of a marriage certificate or the equivalent of. (The original certificate will be required – translated and certified).

It is advisable to obtain several certified copies of the marriage certificate at the time of the ceremony, to avoid any unnecessary difficulties in obtaining further copies in the future. Another option is to arrange for the marriage documents to be sent from the country of marriage to the General Register Office in the UK.

Once the marriage has been declared valid by an English Court, the parties have all the rights afforded by the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, which is the same for any couple divorcing in the UK, regardless of the country of marriage. So a couple who marry in Italy or the Bahamas may still divorce in England under English law.

The English Court may decline to recognise a foreign marriage on the basis of public policy. This would usually be in relation to immigration where a party has been deceitful to the local authorities.

Emma Macdonald 05.10.16
Warren’s Law & Advocacy

Disclaimer: While we do all that is possible in terms of ensuring its accuracy, this blog contains general information only. Nothing in these pages constitutes legal advice. You need to consult a suitably qualified lawyer from the firm on any specific legal problem or matter.