Lisa Pepper discusses recent divorce jurisdiction cases of Agbaje and Sharbatly

13 Aug 2019

Many marriages are a meeting of not only two minds but two jurisdictions. Relationships are often international. On divorce, the jurisdiction where the couple married doesn’t matter, provided they had a ceremony recognised as valid under English Law.

The choice of jurisdiction in divorce and financial proceedings is a common issue. Careful advice needs to be taken from lawyers in both jurisdictions to weigh up the pros and cons of where to commence proceedings.

Even after choosing that jurisdiction, if it isn’t England, in certain circumstances a spouse can still bring a financial claim here after they have been awarded a financial settlement in another country. The Application is made under Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984.

The case of Agbaje v Akinnoye-Agbaje [2010] in the Supreme Court is well-known by Family Lawyers. It set out the circumstances in which a spouse who divorced in another jurisdiction can make a financial claim. It also set out principles for subsequent cases in how the court should decide the amount of the financial award.

Following on from Agbaje, the case of Sharbatly v Shagroon [2012] in the Court of Appeal refused an Application by the Wife under the MFPA Act. The husband had obtained a talaq divorce in Saudi Arabia. She was refused not because of the talaq divorce, but because they had not had a valid marriage ceremony recognised under English Law. 

Sadly, it is all too common that spouses can think an Islamic religious ceremony equals a valid marriage here. 

It remains the case however that if a valid marriage ceremony took place and the parties then divorce and have a financial settlement outside this jurisdiction, in certain circumstances a spouse is not prevented from applying for a “second bite of the cherry” and bringing a claim here.

Lisa is an experienced family lawyer specialising in all aspects of family law.

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