Divorcing after an arranged marriage

While forced marriage has been illegal in the UK since 2014 and ‘love marriages are held up as the norm, arranged marriages often fall into a grey area between the two.

Arranged marriages can sometimes be viewed as uncomfortable in contemporary Britain, largely due to the belief that these are the same as ‘forced marriage’ which they are most certainly not. For many they are a quaint eastern custom and now modern arranged marriages involve a variety of matchmaking practices where each family tailors its own version to suit modern western identities and ambitions.

In the first generation of arranged marriages in Britain, people would return to their homeland to find partners, and would expect their children to follow in their footsteps. There was a marked shift in the attitude of the British-born second generation in the 60s/70s and unlike their parents, this generation identified more with Britain than with Asian countries. Today younger British Asians prefer two styles of marriage – a semi-arranged and love-arranged marriage. Regardless, it is still vital to acknowledge the diversity of arranged marriage forms and what it means to the family unit. Love and arrangement can exist together, as shown by the marriage styles that are popular among British Asians today.

The modern arranged marriage is more than simply meeting your soon-to-be spouse on your wedding day for the very first time. Today, there is often significant negotiation between matched couples and their families. 

However, an arranged marriage is not a guarantee of happy or successful marriage.

The divorce process is a stressful time for all individuals regardless of culture and tradition. No matter whether your divorce journey is contentious or amicable, you will be expected to go through your debts, assets, and personal belongings with a fine-toothed comb just as you would with a western divorce process. The one thing that could be hard to navigate in an arranged marriage is the provision of a dowry.

• The Asian dowry tradition in England is more prevalent amongst the Sikh community. 

• The Gujarati community sees it as an exception rather than the rule. 

• In the Muslim community the bridegroom’s family provide gifts for the bride that are not usually reciprocated. 

• Historically, most Asians enjoyed a high standard of living, irrespective of their caste and religion, and could afford to give a dowry. In Britain today, the rising standard of living coupled with Asians’ desire to advance in their community, the dowry has remained intact.

Upon divorce, the dowry may be called into question and the legal framework often requires the English courts to adjudicate on contentious issues such as: 

• Did a bride take a dowry with her?

• What is the legal effect of the dowry?

• How does a bride get her dowry back? 

• What is the legal effect of jewellery passing from the bridegroom’s family to the bride? 

• What is the legal effect of jewellery and/or clothing which passed from the bride’s family for the groom and his family? 

This is an area of arranged marriage divorce that requires much evidence and needs the knowledge and expertise of an experienced family law solicitor. 

Here at Sheryl Perry Solicitors, we are competent and compassionate and will help guide you through this difficult time. We understand that each legal separation is unique and requires a personally tailored approach. If you are considering or currently experiencing divorce in an arranged marriage, please contact us today to arrange a free telephone discussion to find out how we can help.

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