Sofia Gondal, Lecturer at City University; Barrister, Great James Street Chambers
This article examines the problem of ‘limping marriages’ in the context of English immigration and family law. Limping marriages, or chained or anchored wives, are not new concepts in academic literature. However, the scale of the problem has not been researched. With no reliable data on limping marriages and with fewer recent immigration cases where it is an issue, it is not clear whether the problem has been resolved or driven elsewhere. The focus of this article is on Muslim women, as existing research suggests some of them may be impacted more than others, arising from their need for a religious divorce.
The article tracks the increasingly restrictive approach of the law to recognition of overseas divorces, culminating in the Family Law Act 1986. The problem of limping marriages is then illustrated by reference to cases, highlighting issues which have sometimes led to disparate and unfair outcomes which have impacted negatively on women. The lack of clarity and unnecessary complication in the law leads to an argument for reform, based on the rationale underlying private international law: justice between parties.