No. 287403

In 2001, the parties were married in India under Islamic law. Subsequently, they moved to Michigan. In April 2008, the husband traveled to India to perform the triple talaq,  a means of divorce under Islamic law which is also recognized in India. In order to divorce under the triple talaq, the husband must state language such as, “I divorce thee,” three times. The husband performed the triple talaq and was granted a divorce certificate in India. The parties disagree as to whether the husband notified the wife about the talaq divorce.

In May 2008, the wife filed for divorce in Michigan. The husband filed a motion to dismiss the complaint claiming the parties were already divorced in India under the triple talaq and presented the Court with the divorce certificate. The Trial Court ruled in favor of the husband, recognizing the triple talaq that took place in India and dismissing the wife’s divorce complaint. The wife appealed the decision.

Whether a foreign divorce decree should be recognized where the wife was not afforded due process, did not have the right to be present in court and there was no hearing on the merits of the divorce.

The Appellate Court reversed the Trial Court’s decision, holding that the Trial Court erred in recognizing the Indian divorce because the requirements for comity were not met. Generally, “a judgment should be accorded comity if: 1) the basic rudiments of due process were followed, 2) the parties were present in court, and 3) a hearing on the merits was held.” In this case,  all three elements were missing. The wife was not afforded due process as she had no prior notice of the triple talaq.  She also had no right to be present at the divorce and no hearing on the merits of the divorce was held. Thus, the Trial Court should not have awarded the Indian divorce comity under Michigan law.

Additionally, the Court noted that it would be against public policy to recognize the Indian divorce because Islamic law differs substantially from Michigan law in regards to property distribution. Specifically, Islamic law limits property distribution to that which is designated under the Islamic Marriage Contract. In contrast, Michigan law allows for the equitable distribution of property in light of all circumstances, unless the parties entered into a prenuptial agreement, which would then take precedent.  The Court reasoned, “Given this difference between the Muslim personal law in India and Michigan law, affording comity to the Indian divorce would again ignore the rights of citizens and persons under the protection of Michigan’s laws.”