Campaign for faith marriage protection

Faith Marriage Protection Campaign

Register My Marriage seeks to campaign to amend the Marriage Act 1949 and is committed to raising awareness to the lack of legal protection for unregistered faith marriages. 

Started in 2104 by Aina Khan OBE, the Register My Marriage campaign looks to change the legislation to ensure all religious marriages are legally registered, with an aim to protect weaker spouses and families.

Mr Siddique Patel, a solicitor at Shoosmiths LLP, as well as Deputy Director of the campaign, has seen first-hand the consequences of having no legal protection from an unregistered faith marriage.

Speaking about couple’s reactions to the misconception, Mr Patel stated:

“The reaction is usually one of surprise from the wife, who is often the party that comes out worst in an unregistered faith marriage.  She may not have been made aware or may have assumed (incorrectly) that the religious ceremony also gave legal rights.  It is then up to the couple to legally register the marriage in accordance with the law.  Experience has shown that this can sometimes lead to disagreements, especially when the wife pursues registration against the will of the husband who may have been aware all along that the religious marriage was not a legal marriage.”

As a weaker spouse in an unregistered faith marriage is not afforded the protection of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 any contribution towards the marriage would not be considered, meaning no split of matrimonial assets, inheritance or pension. The campaign has found that there is ‘widespread ignorance’ whereby people assume they are protected by rights of a common law partner.

Calling for a change to the Marriage Act 1949, the campaign looks to include all faith marriages in those that have to be registered; not just those that are Anglican, Jewish or Quaker. With such an internationally diverse culture within England and Wales, with faiths such as Catholic, Hindu and Sikh, it is definitely time for the requirement of all marriages to legally recognised and registered.

At present, only those marriages that take place in a registered building, with two witnesses, and an authorised person or registrar present will be legally valid. Therefore, should a marriage take place in a building that has not been registered, this would not give the couple a legally valid marriage and the protection that holds.

We asked Mr Patel if couples should be afforded similar right as same-sex couples, whereby their civil partnerships can be converted to a marriage?  This would also be similar suggestion raised in a recent Government consultation whereby heterosexual couples would be able to convert their marriages to civil partnerships.

“The current law does not allow ‘conversion’ and in any event, consent of both parties would be needed.  This may present difficulties, especially when one party is unwilling to register the marriage.”

Thanks to funding from the Government in February 2019, the campaign has been able to run awareness-building programmes, starting in Birmingham, Leicester and Bradford.  Through these awareness–building programmes and growing reputation, the campaign is already receiving positive outcomes:

Mr Patel added:

“Thanks to the continuing work of the campaign, more and more people are learning the true position in respect of their rights when it comes to unregistered faith marriages.  There have been several occasions when I have been contacted by women who have discovered that they do not have a legally registered marriage after hearing about the campaign and who have then taken steps to register their marriage.  We are also increasingly hearing from Imams who are now requesting to see the civil marriage certificate or proof that the couple will register their marriage before performing the Islamic Nikah ceremony.  This is of course a big step in understanding the legal position surrounding unregistered faith marriages and it is most gratifying to see that the campaign is already having such a positive impact on the ground.  We need to continue this forward momentum.”


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