I met my husband through Facebook. He was studying in USA and I was in my first year of university. We decided to get married without letting our parents know and went to the Court to have the marriage legalised. He returned to USA a few months after the wedding, but visited me every three to four months. When he was in Bangladesh, we lived together as husband and wife, without anyone knowing about it. Whenever I wished to inform our families and friends, he always stalled, telling me that it was not the right time.
Last week, he suddenly called me and started screaming at me, telling me he wanted a divorce. He told me that his parents are against our marriage and that it will never work out. I had no idea what to do, so I immediately informed my family and we then called his mother. She told us that she had no idea about the marriage, and asked me to return any papers relating to the wedding, because “even if there was a wedding, it is not valid.” Since then, his relatives in Bangladesh have also been harassing and hounding us for the documents. I have no idea what to do. Please advise.
My heart goes out to you, it really does. Unfortunately, the term “court marriage” has become such a commonly-used term these days that people often mistake it for the real thing. It isn’t. The court marriage concept is usually executed through an Affidavit, affirming that the parties are of age and adults and that they are willingly getting married and intend to live together as husband and wife. Unfortunately, this is not the only requirement to make a marriage valid.
If you are Muslim (and I am assuming you are), you will have to follow the marriage procedure outlined in Islamic law. Furthermore your marriage will also have to be duly registered at a “Kazi Office”, which will then provide you with a copy of the “Kabinnama” and your Marriage Certificate. If you are a Christian or a Hindu, then you will have to follow the marriage procedure under the respective laws. Simply executing an Affidavit in the court is just not enough. The Affidavit serves as a mere declaratory document. If that is the case with any couple, and if further down the line one of the parties wants to desert the other party, the party being wronged will literally have no recourse available to him or her.
Unfortunately, the problem does just end here and intensifies if the couple have children, and then one party is deserted by the other. Although custody and child maintenance are separate legal issues, there also remains the stigma and risk of the child being referred to an illegitimate, mainly because the marriage has not been duly solemnised. Sadly, many of us are still under the impression that a “court marriage” will legalise the bond between a couple and that it is worth skipping the alternative costs of having a marriage duly solemnised and registered at the Kazi Office. Once again, it isn’t. You should definitely be registering your marriage, following the correct procedures at the Kazi Office, within 30 days of actually going ahead with the “court marriage”.
Right now, I can advise you this – do not, under any circumstances, hand over any of the marriage related documents which are currently in your possession. They are your only safeguards. If you haven’t actually had your marriage duly registered and if your husband was aware of this flaw and chose to keep you in the dark about it, you may also have grounds for a possible case of fraud against him. However, I sincerely hope your family and his family can work things out. And if things are successfully resolved, once again, do not forget to get your marriage duly registered as per the law. Hope this helps!
Jennifer Ashraf is a barrister and solicitor of England and Wales. She is currently a senior partner at Legacy Legal Corporate