Thursday, May 08, 2008

Maryland Court Denies U.S. Legal Validity of Islamic Divorce

From the Baltimore Sun:

Saying "I divorce thee" three times, as men in Muslim countries have been able to do for centuries when leaving their wives, is not enough if you're a resident of Maryland, the state's highest court ruled yesterday.

Yesterday, the Court of Appeals rejected a Pakistani man's argument that his invocation of the Islamic talaq, under which a marriage is dissolved simply by the husband's say-so, allowed him to part with his wife of more than 20 years and deny her a share of his $2 million estate.

The justices affirmed a lower court's decision overturning a divorce decree obtained in Pakistan by Irfan Aleem, a World Bank economist who moved from London to Maryland with his wife, Farah Aleem, in 1985.

In 2003, Aleem's wife filed for divorce in Montgomery County Circuit Court. When he filed a counterclaim, he did not object to the court's jurisdiction over the case, according to the ruling. But before the legal process could be completed - and without telling his wife - Aleem went to the Pakistani Embassy in Washington and invoked the talaq, in effect attempting to turn jurisdiction of the case over to a Pakistani court that later granted him a divorce.

Maryland's highest court {held]...

"If we were to affirm the use of talaq, controlled as it is by the husband, a wife, a resident of this state, would never be able to consummate a divorce action filed by her in which she seeks a division of marital property," the judges wrote in their decision. They said the talaq "directly deprives the wife of the due process she is entitled to when she initiates divorce litigation."

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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