Friday, February 24, 2006
Case Law Development: New Hampshire Husband's Divorce of Wife under Islamic Law Did Not Deprive State Court of Jurisdiction to Grant Divorce
The New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's divorce in this action in which Husband claimed he had already divorced his wife under his country's law. The couple were married in Lebanon in 1986 and lived for considerable periods in both the United States and the Middle East during their marriage. Husband claims that on the day before Wife filed for divorce in New Hampshire, he initiated a divorce under Islamic law by declaring "I divorce you" three times in succession in the presence of the petitioner and that he telephoned an attorney in Lebanon on the same day and declared, with two witnesses listening, that he had divorced his wife. Thus, he argued the New Hampshire court lacked jurisdiction.
New Hampshire statutes provide that a “divorce obtained in another jurisdiction shall be of no force or effect in this state . . . if both parties to the marriage were domiciled in this state at the time the proceeding for the divorce was commenced.” The court of appeals concluded that this statute applied to foreign divorces as well and that, because both parties were domiciled in New Hampshire when the action was commenced, the trial court did not err in refusing to dismiss the divorce petition for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court likewise rejected Husband’s argument that dismissal was required by principles of comity, noting that comity is a discretionary doctrine and that, given that the parties and their children had been domiciled in New Hampshire for at least the past three years and the considerable burdens that Wife would have to bear in going to Lebanon to obtain a divorce, public policy dictated that the New Hampshire court retain jurisdiction.
In re Ramadan, 2006 N.H. LEXIS 15 (February 14, 2006)
Opinion on the web (last visited February 23, 2006 bgf)