MARRIAGE: Alfonso-Brown v Milwood [2006] EWHC 642 (Fam)

27 MAR 2006

(Family Division; Singer J; 27 March 2006) [2006] 2 FLR 265

The wife claimed that a ceremony undergone in Ghana, in accordance with the customary law of the Ga people, had been a marriage ceremony; the husband claimed that it had been an engagement ceremony only. The ceremony had been conducted almost throughout in the Ga language, which the wife spoke, but the husband did not. If the ceremony had been one of marriage, the marriage would have been bigamous and therefore void, but the wife would then have been able to pursue financial claims against the husband.

On the facts there was no marriage of any kind, as under the customary law of the Ga people, the ceremony could only result in marriage if there was intention that it should do so; intention to marry was a necessary ingredient. Not only had the husband lacked the necessary intent, but at the time of the ceremony neither of the parties intended or believed that the ceremony was anything other than an engagement ceremony, notwithstanding some unusual features, of whose significance the husband would not have been aware.

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