When you get down to it, what is a marriage license other than a certificate of convenience? Convenient for tax purposes, for buying and sharing in homes and other property, for bearing and raising children together, for seamlessly transferring assets at death. Just how convenient becomes clear when you attempt to divorce your spouse and find that you don’t exactly have one, as the estranged, let’s say, partner, of British real-estate billionaire Asif Aziz is learning.
You can certainly understand Tagilde Aziz’s confusion in the matter. Back in 1997, she and Asif were wed in a Muslim ceremony in London after he knocked her up, although she was still legally married at the time. Five years later, they threw a “lavish feast” at his uncle’s house in Malawi that certainly sounds a wedding. The two share a surname and four children and have been “presented to the world” as husband and wife. As such, Tagilde would like her “fair share” of Asif’s £1.1 billion fortune.
The only problem is, Shariah law is not the same thing as English law, and while all marriage licenses may be certificates of convenience, not all certificates of convenience are marriage licenses.
Asif Aziz, for his part, argues that “no ceremony took place at all” in Malawi. He calls the Malawi affair an excuse to obtain “a certificate of convenience” that would allow them to get a passport for a child that they had “informally adopted.”
“The parties have never been married, therefore there’s no marriage to be dissolved by this court,” Richard Harrison, the lawyer representing Asif Aziz, said at a hearing Wednesday. “I mean not married as a matter of English law….”
“If he were able to satisfy a court that they were not married, the wife would still get something but it would probably be substantially reduced,” said Coy, a partner at Stowe Family Law.
Oh, and about that something: According to his lawyers, Aziz is only a billionaire in the same way that he’s married, which is to say, not at all.
Court documents prepared for Wednesday’s hearing on behalf of Tagilde Aziz said Asif Aziz had argued that “he has no capital, is a man of straw and has accumulated debts as a result of these proceedings in excess of 600,000 pounds.” He was arguing that his income is only 400,000 pounds per year, it said.