Ennah Hussain Family Law solicitor at leading Yorkshire law firm, LCF Law, discusses the benefits on being legally married in the UK.

Many people believe holding a religious marriage ceremony in the UK confirms their marriage is legally recognised. However, this is not necessarily the case, and can cause considerable problems in the future.

If your religious marriage is not legally recognised, as far as the law is concerned, the relationship is similar to that of unmarried cohabiting partners.

Being legally married has multiple benefits, particularly under Family Law, for example:


  • Financial Support on Divorce

It follows that if your religious marriage isn’t legally recognised, neither would your divorce. If you separate and you’re not legally married, you’re not entitled to anything you don’t jointly own, and it can often be very difficult to establish joint ownership. Matters proceed through Civil Court and not Family Court, as the relationship would not be considered as a matrimonial matter without a legal marriage.

If you are legally married, and decide to divorce, the starting point for division of assets, is that all the assets are treated as joint, so there is a consideration of a fair settlement. The needs of each party would be assessed, and assets would be shared from the joint matrimonial pot regardless of contributions.

Married partners also have a legal responsibility to support the other financially (through maintenance), whereas non-married couples do not.


  • Family Home

If a family home is solely owned by one spouse, their partner has a legal right to occupy the property during the marriage but if the parties were not legally married the individual who does not own the property would have no rights to remain in the home if asked to leave.


  • Parental Responsibility

Most commonly a father gets parental responsibility for a child, when married to the mother.  Otherwise, the father needs to be named on the birth certificate. Parental Responsibility concerns the rights and powers parents have around making decisions affecting their child, e.g., taking your child abroad, selecting schools, consenting to medical treatment, and accessing medical records.


  • Second Marriage

If a couple only has a religious marriage, one may marry somebody else under English law. In these circumstances, more protection would be afforded to the parties in that marriage than those in the religious marriage regardless of which marriage occurred first.


If you got married overseas:

Marriages conducted overseas can be legally recognised under English law if legally recognised in the country the marriage took place.

E.g., if a Nikah (Islamic Marriage) was undertaken in Pakistan, this would be legally recognised as a marriage in Pakistan. In turn if the married couple became domiciled in the UK the marriage would be legally recognised. The above benefits would apply.


If you have a religious marriage in the UK:

If a religious marriage ceremony complies with religious requirements but is carried out in the UK without following the correct civil procedure, the marriage is not legally recognised.

E.g., if a Nikah is undertaken in the UK, this is not legally recognised. The above benefits would not apply, and the parties would be considered unmarried cohabiting partners.

Unless a civil ceremony is undertaken:

A civil ceremony can take place at a register office and the parties are required to state that there is no reason why they cannot marry, and exchange vows. The ceremony is conducted by a district registrar. There must be a minimum of two witnesses present. A religious marriage can then follow this civil marriage and the combined events would make the marriage legally recognised.

Getting married is an exciting time and an invaluable form of showing commitment, however being legally married brings a number of benefits, and it is vital to consider whether your religious marriage is recognised in the UK.


If you need advice on the issues raised in this article or assistance with Family Law matters, please contact Ennah Hussain on 01274 386 590 – ehussain@lcf.co.uk