(Family Division, Charles J, 15 October 2013)
The wife brought proceedings in England and Wales claiming she and the husband had been married in Nigeria in 1993. The husband denied they had been married and claimed that at the time he was already married to another woman. He further disputed the jurisdiction of the English court. The wife later added a claim that the parties were married by cohabitation and repute and an alternative claim for nullity if the husband proved he was already married at the time of the ceremony. The wife sought orders relating to the twin daughters of the parties and financial remedy.
A freezing order was granted and the wife was awarded maintenance pending suit of £25,000. The Nigerian court was directed to determine the issue of whether a marriage took place and the marital status of the parties. The wife meanwhile applied under Sch 1 of the Children Act 1989 for financial provision for the children.
The Nigerian court found that the wife had failed to establish that a marriage had been created and that decision was upheld by the court of appeal. The wife now sought a decree of nullity and abandoned her claim for dissolution.
The wife's petition before the English court would be struck out following the findings by the Nigerian court. She had been given a full, fair and appropriate opportunity to establish that the parties had entered into a customary marriage but had failed to do so. To lift the stay of the English proceedings and permit her to attempt to persuade the English court that a marriage had taken place would be unfair to the husband. The finding of the Nigerian court was of fundamental importance and impacted on all the other issues relating to the conduct of the parties and their rival contentions. Unfortunately for the husband, the established authorities suggested there was no power of repayment to the husband of the sums he had paid the wife during the proceedings.