A Saudi Arabian businessman is asking the Court of Appeal to rule that the family courts of England and Wales have no jurisdiction to resolve disputes between himself and his ex-partner because neither their Islamic marriage, nor their divorce, can be viewed as valid in this country.
Lawyers representing ‘enormously wealthy’ Adnan Sharbatly argue that the Islamic ceremony he went through with Maha Shagroon in 1994 cannot be recognised as a marriage by the domestic courts because it would be viewed as polygamous in this country. They also submit that the couple’s ‘divorce’ – pronounced by the Islamic formula of ‘talaq’ in 2002 – is a nullity under English law.
Following the end of their relationship, the former couple reached an agreement whereby financial and other provision was made for Mrs Shagroon. However, each of them has since accused the other of breaching the terms of that compromise.
In March 2012, a family judge rejected Mr Sharbatly's case that the courts in this country have no jurisdiction to resolve the dispute but he is now asking Lord Justice Thorpe, Lady Justice Black and Mr Justice Hedley to overturn that decision.
His legal team argues that the 1994 ceremony was a ‘non-marriage’ in England because Mr Sharbatly was at the time already married to another woman under Islamic law. However, Mrs Shagroon’s lawyers insist that she was ‘habitually resident’ in England at the time and that both the marriage and the divorce should be recognised for the purposes of hearing her application for financial relief.