Woman loses bid for declaration of marital status

Family Law|News|May 3rd 2013

Wedding ring divorceA Nigerian woman has lost her bid for a declaration of marital status after a court ruled that she had never been married in the first place.

MO via RO & Anor concerned a couple from the West African country who moved to England in 1978. The woman claimed that they had been married in a traditional ceremony the previous year but he insisted that she had simply assumed the identity of his first wife, who had divorced him and remarried the same year.

The couple continued to live in the UK for the next 35 years, during which time the woman had used the identity of the man’s first wife in all dealings with UK authorities.

After the couple eventually separated, the woman applied for the declaration, under section 55(1)(a) of the Family Law Act 1986.

The court considered evidence from a Nigerian court judgement and a Nigerian lawyer, as well as friends and relatives of the couple.

Sitting in the Family Division, Mr Justice Peter Jackson concluded that:

“…my findings establish that neither of these parties is reliably honest and that it is therefore necessary to view any statements they make with great caution.”

He added:

“I have carefully considered the manifold shortcomings in the evidence given by the respondent [the man].  Despite that, I have concluded on the balance of probabilities that the applicant [the woman] and the respondent did not participate in a ceremony of marriage, customary or civil, on 20 June 1977 or at any other time.”

The judge continued:

“…I reach this conclusion with some regret, given the financial consequences for her, as being in much the weaker position of the two parties.”

Photo by Ruddington Photos via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

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