Pakistani man who fled abusive marriage without meeting baby daughter granted divorce and contact order

A judge in the Outer House of the Court of Session has granted a decree of divorce between a Pakistani man and his Scottish wife at the husband’s instance and made a contact order allowing him to meet his young daughter for the first time.

The pursuer, SM, asserted that his wife, AN, a British citizen living in Edinburgh, had behaved unreasonably and thus the marriage had broken down irretrievably. Their daughter, NN, was born in December 2019. The defender was opposed to any contact taking place between the pursuer and NN.

The case was heard by Lady Wise. The pursuer was represented by McAlpine, advocate, and the defender by Ennis, advocate.

Domestic abuse

The parties married in Pakistan when the pursuer was 21 and the defender 19, following the arrangement of the marriage by their families. He entered the UK on a spousal visa in November 2017 and started working in a shop operated by his wife’s family and later in a supermarket. A cousin of his, ASN, had married the defender’s brother and was living in the same area.

Following instances of violence at a larger family meeting in February 2019, on 10 April 2019, the pursuer and ASN were challenged about communications they had exchanged via WhatsApp in which they had complained to each other about their treatment by their respective spouses and their families. Two weeks later, they left their spouses and were offered accommodation by the pursuer’s uncle.

The defender obtained an Islamic divorce from the purser in January 2020 after taking steps to obtain it in the autumn of 2019. The parties’ daughter, NN, was born in December 2019. The parties had no direct contact since April 2019, and the pursuer had never met his infant daughter at any stage. No details of the pursuer were listed on the child’s birth certificate.

In his evidence, the pursuer stated he had been a victim of domestic violence and had had no control over anything during the marriage. He was required to work long hours in his father-in-law’s shop and was threatened with deportation if he complained, which would have brought shame on his family. He had been unaware that the defender was pregnant when he left in April 2019 and only discovered the birth via social media.

The pursuer averred that he wanted to move back to Scotland and be part of his daughter’s life. While he appreciated that contact would have to be built up gradually, he felt that he would be able to meet his daughter’s needs as he was comfortable looking after a young child in the family home in Oxfordshire where he now lived. Alternatively, if he was not granted permission to stay in the UK, he sought to have video or telephone contact with his daughter from Pakistan.

The defender disputed much of the pursuer’s version of events and denied attacking him herself. It was her position that NN did not need to have contact with her father at the present time and she did not believe his concern for her was genuine.

Took advantage of him

In her opinion, Lady Wise said of the pursuer’s evidence: “I have concluded that, as a generality, where their accounts differed, the pursuer’s version of events is to be preferred over that of the defender. To disbelieve the pursuer, I would have to find that his contemporaneous reports to his uncle TM and his cousin Mrs ASN of the ill treatment to which he was being subjected in the marriage were part of an elaborate scheme to discredit the defender while the couple were married and still living together.”

She continued: “Not only does that seem far-fetched but it does not fit with the unchallenged evidence of Mrs ASN about her own treatment at the hands of the defender’s brother and about the circumstances in which she and her cousin both fled from the situation.”

In contrast, she said of the defender: “In relation to the contact issue her answers were particularly dogmatic and uncompromising. At times her evidence came across as the narration of a script to which she was determined to adhere. When she contradicted herself (such as in relation to whether and when NN should ever meet her father) she was visibly agitated.”

On whether decree for divorce should be granted, she said: “In essence the defender and her family took advantage of the pursuer’s vulnerability as a newcomer to the UK. The defender was confident in the knowledge that her parents would support whatever she said about the pursuer.”

She continued: “I have no hesitation in concluding that the defender’s behaviour to the pursuer has been such that he cannot reasonably be expected to cohabit with her.”

Turning to the crave for a contact order, Lady Wise said: “The advantages for NN are clear enough. She would learn that she has two parents instead of one and her sense of identity would be enhanced as she grows older. She would begin to understand that there is someone important who does not live with her but who is part of her life story. Further, the pursuer has in my view established that he has much to offer his daughter.”

She concluded: “As I observed and as the defender was constrained to accept, the pursuer is a sensitive individual who will show his daughter a different, perhaps more reflective approach to life than she experiences at home. Most importantly, contact with her father will eventually allow NN to form her own view of him, rather than one influenced by the clear antagonism displayed by the defender and her mother.”

For these reasons, Lady Wise granted decree of divorce and made an order for contact between the pursuer and NN.

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