Religious Divorce could become legally binding

In a landmark case decided by the High Court a Jewish couple have been given permission to agree their divorce settlement in the religious courts, by referring the matter back to their Rabbi. This is a huge development which may also have an impact on divorce under Sharia Law. Whilst settlement or decisions made in

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In a landmark case decided by the High Court a Jewish couple have been given permission to agree their divorce settlement in the religious courts, by referring the matter back to their Rabbi.

This is a huge development which may also have an impact on divorce under Sharia Law. Whilst settlement or decisions made in such Courts are not automatically legally binding, where they follow the law as it would stand in England it is likely to become approved by the High Court, thus making it enforceable.

There are so many cases of marriage breakdown which encounter difficulties where the parties wish for the matter to be dealt with under their religious laws and in their courts. Many couples are discouraged from formalising their separation and often remain together to the detriment of one or both parties as they do not want to approach the jurisdictional court system. Some fear the opinion of the community, some have too much respect for their own religious discipline to want to veer away from it.

I personally have encountered many cases of domestic abuse which are not confronted or dealt with for fear of taking the matter out of the hands of the religious parameters in which they live and by whom they respectfully believe they are governed and often protected. Such protection, however, can fall short and this ruling may give such victims the courage to take that step which they otherwise would not have taken.

The 85 Sharia councils in the UK, and the Beth Din, dispense numerous judgments and opinions according to their own laws in respect of matters including divorce, they are however not legally binding. This ruling will allow for those judgments to be placed before the High Court for approval. The two Court systems will however need to work hand in hand so that the judgments being filed are as far as possible in line with English law or else there is the fear too many will be thrown out, wasting the time and stress of going through the religious process initially. Which may again cause a recurrence of current reluctance. One case, for example, required a husband to pay maintenance under English law when he claimed this was not necessary under Sharia law. Once future cases seek to reach the approval of the high court they will need to have been advised and decided upon to the extent where the rights set out will not be reversed and obligations imposed where they had not existed before.

Only time will tell as to how progress will be made, but in short it will be an invited change in the eyes of many who would otherwise shy away.

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