A case involving three marriages, an alleged falsified document, lost Court documents and an unexplained mix-up by a District Registry has been referred by the Court of Appeal to the Family Court.

The woman in question, Noshin Ismail, participated in a combination of Sharia and English weddings between 1983 and 1993 – six ceremonies in all, with three different men.

The first marriage, which took place in India on 6 November 1983 and in the UK on 20 March 1984, ended at least in the eye of English law, on 14 July 1989 with the production of a decree nisi. It was not until 28 October 2015 however – 26 years later – that the couple were divorced under Sharia law.

A full year before she received her decree nisi however, Ms Ismail married again in a Sharia ceremony. This was followed by a civil ceremony in the UK, 20 months later, when she was by this time, formally divorced.

Details surrounding this second marriage are far from straight-forward. It has been suggested that Ms Ismail’s second husband was still married to his previous wife when he married again. The initial decree nisi given to the court as evidence by Ms Ismail was suspected as having been falsified, whilst six months after the initial case was heard, she received an amended decree absolute from Leicester District Registry, who had themselves changed the date from 15 September 1993 to 26 October 1993.

Given these complications then, it is little wonder that concluding the validity of marriage number three, which took place by Sharia ceremony on 27 March 1992, is no easy matter. On the face of it, Ms Ismail was once again still married, this time to her second husband. It was alleged that another Sharia ceremony took place on 15 December 1993, which she denied.

Was marriage number three invalid, as the woman claimed? In the original hearing in July 2013, Her Honour Judge Williams found that it was valid and should be recognised. Ms Ismail subsequently appealed but disturbingly, due to an error by the court, the case was not brought before the Court of Appeal for eighteen months. During this time, fresh evidence was prepared which needed to be reviewed.

The complexity of this case, as reported by Family Law Week, is such that it has now been passed to the Family Court for further review.

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