(Family Division, Mostyn J, 2 March 2017)
Marriage and divorce – Jurisdiction – Recognition of foreign divorce – Children proceedings
The English decrees nisi and absolute were set aside and the mother’s Children Act 1989 proceedings were discharged.
The French father and British mother of Bangladeshi origin began a relationship in 2009 and the mother became pregnant. They were married in 2010 in London. Thereafter they moved to Dubai where the father worked.
Shortly after their arrival in Dubai the father commenced divorce proceedings and the mother instructed lawyers to contest it. However, the mother failed to attend a number of hearings. The father subsequently amended his divorce claim to seek custody of the child. The mother eventually withdrew from the court process.
At a final hearing which the mother did not attend and was not represented the divorce was granted and custody of the child was awarded to the father.
In 2015 the mother filed for divorce in England. In separate proceedings she asserted that she was previously married to the father until 2012 when a divorce was granted. In the divorce petition she contested the validity of the Dubai divorce which was Sharia based, claimed that she had not been served with any divorce proceedings and that judgment was given in her absence.
In 2016 decrees nisi and absolute were pronounced. The mother then applied under s 8 of the Children Act 1989 for a contact order. The father applied for: a declaration of recognition of the Dubai divorce; an order setting aside the decrees nisi and absolute; and, an order dismissing the mother’s Children Act 1989 application.
The court was satisfied that the mother had knowledge and a full opportunity to participate in the proceedings in Dubai. The proceedings were fair and the UAE divorce had not been contrary to English and Welsh public policy. The Dubai divorce was valid and the English decrees were null and void.The proceedings issued by the mother would be discharged for want of jurisdictional basis pursuant to s 2 of the Family Law Act 1986.