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MARRIAGE: MO v RO [2013] EWHC 392 (Fam)

Date:2 MAY 2013
Law Reporter

(Family Division, Peter Jackson J, 1 March 2013)

The husband, a Nigerian national with indefinite leave to remain in the UK, married his first wife in Nigeria before they moved to England where they had four children together. When the relationship came to an end the first wife returned to Nigeria with the children and remarried.

Thereafter the husband met the applicant in Ghana and she alleged they took part in a customary marriage which was subsequently registered. The following year the husband took the applicant to live with him in England. Once in England the applicant took on the identity of the first wife by using her name, date of birth and asserting that she was from Nigeria. The husband's four children returned from Nigeria to live with them and called the applicant ‘mum'.

The husband and the applicant had two children together and the first wife's details were used on the birth certificates. A property was purchased in the name of the husband's company and the couple lived there with all six children.

When the relationship came to an end the husband denied that they had been married and sought to remove the applicant from the property while the applicant issued a divorce petition with applications for financial provision, a freezing order and an occupation order. The husband issued proceedings in Nigeria to prevent the wife from asserting that she was married to him. The Nigerian court held that there had never been a valid marriage and granted the injunction sought.

In proceedings in the High Court the judge found that neither the husband nor the applicant were reliable witnesses and there were numerous shortcomings and inconsistencies in their evidence. On the balance of probabilities on the basis of all the evidence there had been no ceremony of marriage either customary or civil.