Council of Europe calls for Muslim couples in UK to legally register marriage before or during Islamic ceremony

The Council of Europe has said Muslim couples getting married in the UK should be legally required to civilly register their union before or during the Islamic ceremony.

The organisation raised concerns about the role of sharia councils in family, inheritance and commercial law and called for obstacles stopping Muslim women from accessing justice to be removed.

British authorities were asked to increase measures to provide protection and assistance to those who are in a vulnerable position and run awareness campaigns which teach Muslim women about their rights.

The Council of Europe set a deadline of June 2020 for the UK to report back on reviewing the Marriage Act, which would make it a legal requirement for Muslim couples to undergo civil marriages – which is currently required for Christian and Jewish marriages.

Responding to the resolution, a Home Office spokesperson said, “Sharia law does not form any part of the law in England and Wales. Regardless of religious belief, we are all equal before the law. Where Sharia councils exist, they must abide by the law.

“Laws are in place to protect the rights of women and prevent discrimination, and we will work with the appropriate authorities to ensure these laws are being enforced fully and effectively.”



Jersey residents asked about views on divorce law

Jersey residents have been asked by their government how their 70-year old divorce law should be changed in a public consultation.

Views were sought on whether people should be allowed to divorce before their 3rd year of marriage.

The public were also asked if the age of marriage should be increased to 18 years of age and whether civil partnerships should be extended to opposite sex couples or removed altogether.

Three public meetings were held the matters were discussed.

The meetings formed part of a twelve-week consultation which is due to run until Friday, 22nd February.


Urgent Marriages Increasing With Those In Common Law Marriages

Recent statistics reveal an increasing number of couples are choosing to marry prior to one of the couple dying.

In recent years there has been a distinct increase in cohabiting couples living as common law husband and wife. However, many of these common law spouses do not make their partnership legal. Many are unaware that their shared assets will not receive the same legal protections as couples that marry.

Assets do not pass freely to their partner upon death. The person left behind can face inheritance tax problems that could force those that are grieving to sell their house to fund the tax bill.

According to the Home Office and Passport Office, there was a significant increase in the number of applications for urgent marriages with 190 urgent marriage applications made in 2018.

Urgent marriages are conducted in a bid to ensure protections from inheritance tax, often made where at least one of the couple was suffering from poor health.



Scottish man takes divorce to Supreme Court

A Scottish aristocrat has won the right to take his case to the Supreme Court.

Charles Villiers, 55, accused his former spouse, Emma, 60, of “trying it on” in the English courts as a divorce tourist, claiming she only moved to London when they separated in order to apply for maintenance via the more generous English courts.

He lost an initial bid to stop her from claiming £10,000 monthly maintenance payments in London last May, when the Court of Appeal rejected his claim that an English judge had no right to intervene in a Scottish divorce.

The Supreme Court has now, however, given him permission to appeal that order, leaving him “pleased and relieved” and hopeful that the case, which has dragged on for several years, will be heard by the five-judge panel before the summer.

Mr and Mrs Villiers married in 1994 and separated in 2012 after 17 years.

Mr Villiers filed for divorce in Scotland in 2014, but three months later Mrs Villers applied to the English courts for financial maintenance.

However, Mr Villiers is determined that the case be heard in Scotland, where inherited wealth is not included in divorce settlements and maintenance is limited to three years.



Divorced women over 50 end up with pensions worth £100,000 less than their ex-partners

Official figures show divorced women over the age of 50 end up with a pension worth £100,000 less than that of their former husband.

According to a survey of over-50s divorced people and married couples across Britain by the Office for National Statistics, the average pension pot of divorced women totals £131,000, compared to the £235,000 divorced men typically have.

The average divorced woman over 50 has property wealth of £169,000 compared to the £191,000 of men.

Former pensions minister Sir Steve Webb, who now works for insurer Royal London which compiled the analysis, said,

“‘Pensions are so complicated to understand that many people do not appreciate their value when they get divorced. Their focus tends to be on getting half of the house.

“But if your ex-husband has a generous pension built up over 25 years, it could be worth more than the house.”

He added, “When couples split up there is an understandable focus on family issues and on highly visible assets such as the family home.

“But very often one partner will have pension rights which are less visible but can be just as valuable.”


Why are couples more likely to split in January

The first working Monday back after the Christmas break is dubbed “Divorce Day” by lawyers who typically see an increase in couples considering divorce.

This year Divorce Day fell on Monday, January 7.

Support service Amicable says that more than 40,500 people will search “divorce” online in January, which is almost 25% higher than at any other time of the year.

The latest divorce figures, released last year, revealed the divorce rate for heterosexual couples in the UK was at a 45-year low, with 101,669 divorces of heterosexual couples in England and Wales.

According to the Office for National Statistics, there were 8.4 divorces of opposite-sex couples per 1,000 married men and women in 2017, representing the lowest rates since 1972 and a 5.6 per cent decrease since 2016.

According to the ONS figures, unreasonable behaviour was cited as the most common reason for both heterosexual and same-sex divorce.

More than 102, 000 sales of land and property registered in England and Wales in November 2018

Official figures reveal there were 102,703 sales received by the Land Registry in November last year.

Of these, 77,369 were freehold, a 2% decrease on November 2017 and 14,866 were newly built, a 13.5% increase over the same period.

Of the 102,703 sales received for registration, some 31,721 took place in November 2018 of which 567 were of residential properties in England and Wales for £1 million and over, 336 were of residential properties in Greater London for £1 million and over.

The data also shows that three were of residential properties in West Midlands for more than £1 million, seven were in Greater Manchester for more than £1 million and two were in Cardiff for more than £1 million.

The most expensive residential sale taking place in November 2018 was a terraced property in the City of Westminster for £38,822,000 while the cheapest was a terraced property in Burnley, Lancashire, for £16,700.



13 people filed for divorce on Christmas Day

Official figures reveal more than 400 people filed for divorce over the festive period. Thirteen people filed for divorce on Christmas Day.

HM Courts & Tribunals Service received 455 online divorce applications from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day.

Spouses seeking to end their marriage are now able to complete the entire process online by filling in applications, uploading required documents and paying fees on the internet without sending off any paperwork.

Statistics released by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) show more than 23,000 online divorce applications have been made since the platform was rolled out in England and Wales in April 2018.

Ammanda Major, head of clinical practice at charity Relate, said: “Many people hope that the festive period will be a time of coming together, so when this doesn’t happen the sense of failure and sadness can further exacerbate problems that were there in the first place.

“Pressures can build up when people are spending an extended period of time together.

“For some people it might be the additional financial pressure of Christmas that triggers a problem, while for others it could be the stress of trying to keep everyone from the in-laws to the children happy.

“At Relate, we typically see an increase in the number of requests for help in January, and it’s important to remember that relationship support and counselling can help people work through their problems.”

Overall, the MoJ said more than 150,000 people used online justice services in 2018, taking the total number past 300,000 in the past four years.