Case No. 2001CA00015

Taleb and Fatima get married in 1970 in Palestine, as indicated by the Muslim Marriage Contract they signed.  Later that year, the couple moved to Ohio so that Taleb can operate several of the businesses he owned.  They live in Ohio during their marriage, where Fatima gives birth to their three (3) children.  During their marriage, however, Taleb has an affair with Crystal, producing two (2) children and an affair with Jennifer, producing three (4) children.  In 1992, Taleb travels to Palestine for three (3) weeks and obtains a divorce from the Sharia Court in Ramallah.  The Sharia Court issues Taleb a divorce certificate even though Fatima was neither present for the divorce nor served with the divorce certificate.  After obtaining a divorce from Fatima, Taleb returns to Ohio and marries Jennifer on February 14 1995, claiming on his marriage license application that he had previously been married to Fatima but had divorced her.  Up until this point, Fatima was not aware that Taleb had divorced her in Palestine.

In April 2000, Taleb was murdered in Arkansas not far from a convenience store he owned. In August 2000, one of Taleb’s children, as Administrator of his father’s Estate, filed a complaint in Ohio and a hearing was held at the Stark County Common Pleas Court, Probate Division to determine the legal heirs.

Whether husband’s divorce from his first wife in Palestine was valid, rendering his marriage to second wife also valid.

In determining the legal heirs of Taleb’s property, the Court granted comity to the Palestinian divorce.   This meant that Taleb’s divorce from Fatima while in Palestine was valid and thus, Taleb’s subsequent marriage to Jennifer was also valid, meaning Jennifer was the surviving spouse and entitled to a portion of Taleb’s estate.

On appeal, the Appellate Court reversed the lower Court’s decision, holding that the Palestinian divorce decree is not entitled to comity.  The Court reasoned that without expert testimony regarding Palestinian law on residency requirements,  the Ohio Court was to assume that Palestinian law would have similar residency requirements as Ohio.  In an action for divorce, Ohio law requires plaintiff to be a resident of Ohio for at least six (6) months before commencing an action for divorce.  Taking Ohio’s residency requirement and applying it to the divorce that was issued by the Sharia Court in Ramallah, Palestine, the Ohio Court found that Taleb did not reside in Palestine for six (6) months prior to obtaining a religious divorce from Fatima.  Therefore, his divorce from Fatima that was issued in Palestine was not valid under Ohio law.  Consequently, the Appellate Court remanded for further proceedings consistent with its decision.