Religious tradition no defence against maintenance payments

Year Published: 2007

The Court of Appeal has ruled that a Muslim doctor who ignored an order to pay his former wife maintenance could not rely on Muslim tradition to free him of his financial responsibilities.

The doctor claimed that maintenance payments were not appropriate on the basis of Islamic culture. In Muslim societies there is often an expectation that the divorced wife’s extended family will support her financially; there is not an expectation that the former husband pay maintenance as may be considered appropriate in English law.

The doctor married his wife in April 2000 and the couple had two children before separating in 2008. The court ruled that the argument that maintenance was “illegitimate or illegal according to Islamic culture” was not a defence for failure to comply with orders made in English family courts.

An order made in the County Court ordered that the doctor was to pay his former wife £60,000 in personal maintenance for her contribution to the marriage. When the doctor failed to comply with the order in full his former wife obtained an order directing him to pay the arrears and resume monthly maintenance payments.

The doctor challenged that order at the Court of Appeal on the basis that he stopped making payments because he had heard that his wife “didn’t need the money” after inheriting £250,000 from her father. The appeal was dismissed. The doctor commented that he believed family law in this England was biased against Muslims.

It is important, no matter what religious beliefs you hold, that you understand the English legal system in relation to financial matters before filing for divorce.

For further information on family law matters, please contact Shelley Chesworth in the Private Client team on 0161 475 7682.

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