Court of Appeal recognises Syrian marriage


The Court of Appeal has rejected a university lecturer’s claim that a marriage conducted in Syria was not legally valid.

The case concerned a couple who split acrimoniously in 2013 after 14 years together, amidst accusations of infidelity and assault. They had one daughter.

Later, as divorce proceedings began, they became embroiled in a legal dispute over the ownership of a house in Oxford. A financial settlement between the pair remained in limbo, however, because the husband also argued that their arranged marriage had never been properly registered and was therefore not valid. It had taken place in the coastal city of Homs, Syria, in 1999.

The lecturer failed to convince Judge Robin Tolson at a family court hearing in Oxford, who suggested that official records of the marriage may have been lost during the bitter (and ongoing) Syrian Civil War. Much of Homs has been destroyed in the fighting.

The husband took his case to the Court of Appeal, further delaying any financial settlement, but his claims have now been dismissed there as well. Judges relied on a legal principle called ‘presumption of marriage’. This applies when a couple have lived together as husband and wife for a significant period even if there are issues concerning the formalities of the original marriage.

Lord Justice McFarlane declared:

“The background facts justified, as a matter of policy, a presumption that this couple were indeed validly married. The husband had asserted the existence of the marriage from beginning to end; he had even asserted its validity in his own divorce petition. Against that background, clear, positive or compelling evidence [that the marriage was not valid] was required, but it simply was not there.”

The ruling entitles the wife, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, to push ahead with her claims for financial provision.

Photo of Homs, Syria by  Zozo2kx via Wikipedia

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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