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Experience:  Solicitor with more than 30 years experience
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UK legality of Kenyan Civil Ceremony

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My partner married a Kenyan woman via Civil Ceremony in Mombassa in 2006, he has had no contact with her since December 2006 and has no idea whether she is dead or alive. He is a UK Citizen and has lived here all his life. Is the marriage valid in the UK? Would he need to get a divorce to remarry in the UK? Thank you, Judith

Hi Judith thanks for your questions. If he married in Kenya in a ceremony that was valid in Kenyan law and complied with Kenyan formalities and his wife was resident there then yes the marriage would be valid and he cannot marry again without a divorce. Overseas marriages are generally valid unless there is some reason why they are not enforceable in the UK eg polygamous marriages or tribal marriages that are not recognised as legally effective where they took place.
He can get a divorce in the UK but he may need to find an address for his wife.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thank you for your reply. As I said, my partner has had no contact with his wife since 2006, he tried via informal means to establish contact and then via The FCO and the Kenyan High Comission to ascertain whether she was alive but with no success. She did not respond to letters, emails or phone calls and he would therefore be unable to provide an address.

I have done quite a bit of reading on this subject and the grounds for divorce would be desertion. Can he use what is commonly referred to as DIY divorce via a UK court?

I think you can use five years separation and yes he can bring his own petition but he will need an address for his wife in order to serve the petition or to get an order for deemed service if she does not respond.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thank you but given the circumstances above, it seems doubtful that an order for deemed service would be granted. There is no way of knowing or proving that his wife would be at an address, let alone showing that she had received the papers. I would have thought an application to dispense with service was more appropriate.

Have I misunderstood?

It is pretty much the same thing. Dispensing with service is extremely rare and requires the court to be satisfied that all possible avenues have been exhausted. He must presumably ave at least her last known address to base inquiries on. I would not recommend that you try and do this without a solicitor to help. You will need to put together a very convincing statement to achieve this. Has he tried using a private investigator?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thank you, that is helpful. They do not usually have addresses in Kenya, they have PO Boxes. He has a PO Box address but there is no way of knowing whether it is still his wife's box as it was last used to send a letter at the end of 2006 (no reply was received to this letter).

It is possible that his wife is dead as she suffered from Malaria but there are no contact details for any other family or friends and the FCO and Kenyan High Comission were unable to help.

Your suggestion of a private investigator is helpful and any suggestions/recommendations would be gratefully received as would an idea of costs. I have no knowledge of standards, codes of conduct, etc for Private Investigators in this country let alone Kenya.


Not sure there are any codes for PI's . Some of the uk ones will have a network of contacts. I have used this firm in the past myself but you cannot take that as an endorsement or recommendation. they did the job they were asked to do for a reasonable fee.

So you could contact hem and ask if they have a contact in kenya and what sort of fees are charged.