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My girlfriend is from the United Kingdom. A few months ago she was forced to marry another person and the entire thing was done in Pakistan. Will the marriage be recognized in the United Kingdom?

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Sharia law is not recognised in the UK, but if the marriage is legal in Pakistan it will be considered legal in the UK.

In most Muslim countries, it is against the law to have a religious ceremony but not register it. The penalties are a fine or imprisonment. This is because it is essential to be able to prove you are married.

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A Nikah or other religious ceremony is recognised as legal in the UK, as long as it was registered in the country where it took place

The same religious ceremony is NOT recognised if it was performed in the UK, but not registered. It has no legal status and you can get married to someone else legally. The essential ingredient is the registration, not the ceremony.

FAQs at Register Our Marriage.

The issue of consent is not dealt with at that website, but in the UK a forced marriage would probably be annulled, rather than a divorce.

If your marriage isn’t legally valid, you can get it annulled - for example, if you were forced into it or one of you was under 16.

Citizens Advice - How to End a Marriage.

Leaving a forced marriage overseas will probably require the assistance of a lawyer with experience in this area.

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So in most western nations there is a distinction between a religious marriage and a legal marriage. Since western nations tend to seperate church and state matters these days, Religious marriage terms are between the couple, God, and the clergy. The law has no say here. Legal Marriage is between the state and typically helps with tax purposes and the inheritance of stuff when a married person dies. There could be situations where one is preferred but the other isn't (i.e. the couple isn't of the same religion but want to be married in the eyes of the law and their own personal philosophy of marriage and how to mesh that with religion. Conversely, they are of the same religion but legal marriage will put them into a higher tax bracket then if they were just two people living together).

In most English speaking nations or former colonies there of (mostly former British Colonies, but America has some influence on a few nations too. I could be wrong but Pakistan is a Common Law nation (with a minor but relevant note) and all totaled out, at least 2 billion people live under Common Law Jurisprudence) this is referred to Common Law Marriage. However, Pakistan tends to rely on a couple's religious law when handling marriage cases (usually divorce and inheritance. This isn't uncommon as India and Israel also follow similar exceptions in their courts. Not for nothing, it should be pointed out that all three nations have long and deep religious conflicts that predate their independence so that's why).

With all that said, you need to know if they filed for a Common Law Marriage in the U.K. or any other Common Law marriage in any other nation. As a general rule, if a cleric signs the marriage liscense, it's default Common Law marriage and all issues of legal marriage are in place. Good News: Adultry isn't a crime in U.K. anymore, so good news in the U.K. but the bad news is it's still a basis for Divorce (almost all Divorce in the west is now No Cause divorce, meaning that you can seek divorce for any reason, not just the legal reasons. If there is a legal cause for divorce, then it may mean the person who was wronged in the cause can have some justified legal claims to shared assets). All this means that you could literally be screwing your girlfriend out of a lot of money. Pardon the pun.

It's hard to say without knowing if she has a marriage license in the U.K. One final thing to note, though, is that you shouldn't use Age of Consent as a basis for this determination as I believe the U.K. law (definitely the case in the U.S. though) grants exemptions to age of consent if the marriage was legal in another nation and then the couple immigrated. Islamic law does permit a lower age of consent than what is typical in the U.K. (16) and U.S. (depends on state, tends to be 16-18) so there are immigrants with "Child Brides" in the U.S. that are legal because the marriage predated the immigration.

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