Primary Courts Confirm Legal Effectiveness of Foreign Divorce Decrees


Primary Courts Confirm Legal Effectiveness of Foreign Divorce Decrees

The Colombo District Courts of Sri Lanka by its recent judgements have recognised a divorce decree issued by US courts (decided on 6th June 2024) as well as a marriage annulment decree issued by the Melbourne Federal Courts of Australia. These decisions follow a landmark ruling by the Court of Appeal a recently as December 2023 in case No. CA WRIT/266/2021, thus affirming the validity and enforceability of foreign divorce decrees pertaining to marriages contracted in Sri Lanka, provided certain guidelines are met.

The guidelines so set out are as follows;

  1. The divorce decree must be pronounced by a “Competent Court” in that such Court must be in law vested with the jurisdiction in respect of the dissolution of a marriage and be in law the ‘Competent Court’ in the foreign country; and
  2. The Parties must have been residents of the foreign country for a reasonable period of time; and
  3. The parties must have been properly represented and participated in the legal proceedings according to the laws and procedures of the foreign country.

The Court of Appeal, clarified that while the Registrar of General Marriages is not obliged to recognize foreign divorce decrees, the District Courts can do so in relevant proceedings subject to being satisfied on compliance with the stated guidelines.

While legislation is yet to adequately address matters such as child custody, support, alimony, and property rights in similar circumstances, the recognition of foreign divorce decrees in primary courts represents a significant step toward moving to addressing these issues.

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