Asif Aziz, said to be a billionaire London property developer, has claimed that he was never married to Tagilde Aziz who is claiming a share of £1.1 billion in financial remedy proceedings in the High Court.
Mr Aziz seeks to have reversed a decree nisi pronounced in 2016 on the basis that a Muslim marriage ceremony, claimed to have taken place in Malawi in 2002, had never actually occurred.
Hetty Gleave, Partner at Hunters Solicitors, commented:
“Ever since Mick Jagger told Jerry Hall that after 21 years believing she was his wife and four children later, they were never actually married, there has been a high level of public interest in how a marriage is legally defined as valid.
“Cases where the validity of a marriage is called into question usually involve a marriage ceremony overseas, where the correct formalities have not been complied with.
“The question is whether the law of the country in which the marriage was celebrated declares the marriage invalid, in which case an English court will too. However, this is not the end of the matter.
“The person who seeks financial relief after an invalid marriage may still be able to apply for a decree of nullity, rather than divorce. The purpose of a nullity petition is to ensure that where the parties intended to be married and attended a ceremony which had all the hallmarks of marriage, but the process was in some way flawed, the affected party could still obtain financial relief from the court, as though they had been legally married.
“Therefore, even if Mr Aziz is successful in proving that his marriage was not recognised in Malawi, and so is invalid in this country, he should not assume that Mrs Aziz is not entitled to any financial relief. As long as she has sufficient evidence after 15 years to show that they both intended to be married and lived their life as man and wife, then her financial claims against him remain open.
“It would be a cold hearted Judge who did not look with tender sympathy on such an applicant after such a long relationship and four children. Malawi wedding or not, Mr Aziz should not think that he is out of the legal jungle just yet.”