429 S.E.2d 626 (1993)

The parties were married on July 31, 1988 via proxy in England under Islamic law. They signed a “Nikah,” a marriage contract, which included a dower of $20,000 deferred payment. Neither the husband nor wife was present in England at the time the marriage was solemnized.  After the marriage was solemnized, the parties went to Pakistan, the wife’s home country, to attend a wedding reception that her father held for them. Subsequently, the parties returned to Virginia and lived together for one year. They did not have a civil ceremony in Virginia. The parties separated on June 29, 1989. The husband filed to have the marriage void and the wife filed for divorce and equitable distribution.

The trial court held in favor of the wife, granting the parties a divorce and equitable distribution. During trial, the husband presented evidence that the marriage was void ab nitio under British law because they did not perform the formalities required under the Marriage Act of England. However, the trial court found that since Pakistan recognizes Islamic law, the marriage was valid in Pakistan and therefore, Virginia should grant comity to Pakistan’s recognition of the marriage.  The husband appealed this decision.

Whether a marriage is valid where the parties contracted and celebrated a marriage in Country A and did not perform the formalities required under the laws of that country.

The appellate court reversed the trial court’s decision, holding the marriage to be void ab nitio under British law. The court found that British law governed because the marriage was “contracted and celebrated in England”.  Since the parties did not perform the formalities required under British law, the marriage was void. Moreover, the court noted that the parties did not create a common-law marriage in another jurisdiction, which Virginia would have recognized.