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The Recognition of Divorces and Legal Separations Act 1971 set out the criteria for the recognition in the United Kingdom of overseas divorces. The Family Law Act 1986 instituted new provisions for the recognition of overseas divorces which took place on or after 4 April 1988.
An overseas divorce is one which has been obtained by means of judicial or other proceedings, or other than by means of proceedings, in any country outside the UK and which is effective under the laws of that country.
An overseas divorce which took place before 4 April 1988 is recognised in the United Kingdom under the 1971 Act if, at the date the proceedings started, either spouse was habitually resident in, or was a national of, the country where the divorce was obtained.
The Domicile and Matrimonial Proceedings Act 1973 added provisions which came into effect on 1 January 1974. These provisions covered forms of divorce which the courts had ruled were not by means of judicial or other proceedings for example, bare talaqs (see subsection below). Such forms of divorce could be recognised if both parties were domiciled in a country or countries which recognised such divorce. If, however, one party was domiciled in any part of the UK at the time such a divorce took place, it would not be recognised.
An overseas divorce obtained other than by proceedings in a court of law cannot be regarded as having validly dissolved a marriage if both parties had throughout the year immediately before the institution of the proceedings been habitually resident in the UK.
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