A mixed marriage is anything but simple.
The spouses will have to blend harmoniously two cultures, two different references and paradigms. They have to decide about a country of residency, usually the native country of one of them. That means the other will be far away from his family, friends, more subject to homesickness. They might also have two different religions.
Intermarriage is also the harmonization of two different legal systems
This harmonious mix will have to be the same for legal stuff. It requires the application of two very different family law systems. Morocco’s family law is religious (Muslim or Jewish based, depending of the religion of the male spouse) while, in most of the cases, the foreign spouse will be used to a secular family law.
And believe me, the differences are far more important than just pronouncing your wows in front of the mayor instead of the pastor !
Luckily, there are conventions between Morocco and United States, Morocco and Great-Britain and most of the other countries that tries to organize this legal coexistence. However, it remains a complex matter, even more when things turn bad up to a divorce.
Each of the two countries must recognize and register the marriage
How exactly this is achieved depends on each country legal system and requirements. Some countries will demand that the marriage is registered on their own registries, while others, like Great Britain, recognize any marriage legally pronounced in a foreign country, as long as it does not contravene British laws.
Morocco requires also the proof that nothing would prevent a marriage in the other country, which is materialized by a declaration stating that the two persons can marry.
You had your marriage celebrated in the US, Morocco or Argentina (in case you were both living there and wanted to enjoy extra administrative complexity). You marriage was celebrated by the authorities of the country where it took part:
- Moroccan administration for a marriage in Morocco ;
- US administration for a marriage in the US;
- US or Moroccan consulate for a marriage in Argentina.
You are married, you also have to register your marriage in the other country.
In other words, in case you had a secular marriage in another country than Morocco (in many European country a secular marriage is the only legal marriage, the religious ceremony can only take place after the secular one), you then have to marry a “second time” in a Moroccan consulate, this time following the Muslim ritual and Moroccan law.
If needed, once the registration in your country of origin is made, you are fully married. Your country recognizes your marriage and all the rules, commitments and advantages coming with it. Including the right for your Moroccan Significant Other, to apply for residency in your country.
Nevertheless, even before this registration takes place, you are married. Sort of… You can’t claim the benefits of your marriages, but it exists, and you have to fulfil your obligations.
For example, you cannot decide to marry again someone else without a divorce. Your country would consider you as single as long as it has not been informed, officially, of your marriage. But, in case your new spouse discovers your first marriage in Morocco, he/she can sue your for bigamy. As soon as your country gets the proofs of your marriage in Morocco, it will condemn you.
In another words, even without a registration in your native country, a marriage made in another country requires that both parts carry out their obligations, while preventing the spouses from claiming the benefits of their marital status.
Which law is applicable to your marriage ?
It might not be the law of the country where you married, but the law of the country where you first shared residency.
Unless you chose in your contract to define which is the law applicable, and that each of the two countries allow this choice.
Which means that, in case you marry in Morocco and live there one or two years, then move to your country of origin and finally decide to divorce, in theory, the judge in your country should apply Moroccan law.
As long as Moroccan law and “your” law are not in contradiction. Which, in our secular countries, is seldom the case.
A green tea to soothe your starting headache ?
Where will you get married ?
You do not have that many choices. You can get married either :
- in the country of origin / citizenship of one of the two spouses
- in the country of residence of one of the two spouses
- and you have to get married by the authorities of the country (aduls in Morocco)
The only case you can marry in your consulate is when both of you have the same citizenship (and you are not in Morocco, because in Morocco, a dual national is always considered Moroccan).
“Weddings” between two foreigners in Morocco are actually celebrations, all the papers are done before.
You have to know and understand the Moroccan law
Moroccan Family Code, or “Personnal Status” had drastically evolved when the new “Mudawana” was issued in 2004.
As everywhere in the world, this code is interpreted by the judges, particularly in case of divorce. You can find here the Moudawana in English (with Moroccan marriage law, but also Kafala, inheritance…)
Morocco is by now in the middle of the path from a very strict muslim interpretation of the sharia (religious law) and a legislation protecting women’s right as they are protected in western countries. If you happen to move to a less liberal muslim country, your marriage will be regulated by harder laws. Even in Morocco, some basics principles have not been changed. One of the is the impossibility for the wife to travel abroad with her children without the authorization of the father.
The marriage contract can include stipulations protecting the wife, giving in advance authorizations or forbidding specific actions, like marrying a second wife.
To have them included in your contract, it is absolutely necessary to know “what and why”.
The marriage contract
Your marriage contract is absolutely essential. We might neglect it and disregard it, that’s a mistake. The muslim equivalent of a pre nup is the way Moroccans decide precisely the legal frame and what will be done in such or such case. It is a way to simplify things in advance, avoid difficulties and organize the financials and organization of life.
And for that, it deserves a complete post.