Recognition of overseas marriage or civil partnership
Recognition of overseas marriage or civil partnership

The following Family guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Recognition of overseas marriage or civil partnership
  • Overseas marriage
  • Formal validity
  • Essential validity
  • Polygamous marriages
  • Lex fori
  • Declaration of status
  • Overseas civil partnerships (or equivalent relationships)

This Practice Note is impacted by the exit of the UK from the EU on 31 January 2020. This has implications for practitioners considering which courts have jurisdiction to determine a dispute. For guidance, see Practice Note: Brexit and family law. This Practice Note sets out the current position on the recognition of overseas marriage or civil partnership.

Overseas marriages, civil partnerships (or their overseas equivalent) and related foreign orders are now more commonly encountered. The law is far from straightforward. Three main issues arise:

  1. whether the marriage or civil partnership is recognised in England and Wales

  2. whether a formal or informal foreign order relating to a marriage or civil partnership (entered into in this jurisdiction or abroad) is recognised for the purposes of further proceedings or enforcement steps in England and Wales, and

  3. the requirements for an application for a declaration of status

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 introduced same-sex marriage in England and Wales and overseas marriages of same-sex couples are now treated as marriages rather than as civil partnerships, see Practice Note: Marriage of same-sex couples.

Section 212 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 (CPA 2004) brought into effect important changes relating to same-sex overseas relationships that largely mirror those relating to marriage. There are some differences, however. Therefore, civil partnership and marriage are considered separately in this Practice Note.