International Law Meets Maryland Divorce Law

Howard County, Anne Arundel County and Montgomery County are only a few of the Maryland localities that have increasingly diverse international populations. In these jurisdictions, Maryland Divorce Lawyers and their clients are dealing with more and more international law issues like the ones resolved by the Court of Appeals in Aleem vs. Aleem.

The dispute arose from husband’s exercise of his right under Islamic and Pakistani laws to divorce under the doctrine of talaq. He also argued that wife had no right to his World Bank pension valued at over $1 million based on a Pakistani marriage agreement that was silent on the issue.

He countered by exercising his absolute right under Pakistani law to talaq, repeating “I divorce thee” three times.

When the parties were married in Pakistan in 1980 wife was an 18 year old high school graduate and husband was a 29 year old doctoral student at Oxford. Over 25 years later, she filed for a divorce in the Maryland Circuit Court for Montgomery County seeking one half of his World Bank pension. He countered by going to the Pakistani Embassy in Washington D.C. and exercising his absolute right under Pakistani law to talaq (repeating “I divorce thee” three times) without so much as a phone call to his wife. Under Pakistani law, their marriage agreement that was silent on the issue of marital property meant that wife had no rights whatsoever.

The Court of Appeals held that it would not recognize a divorce of Maryland residents resulting from talaq. Citing the Equal Rights Amendment to the Maryland Constitution, it pointed out that the right to talaq was absolutely granted to a husband but a wife only had such a right if it was granted to her by her husband at the time of the marriage. The court refused to enforce such a discriminatory foreign doctrine.

Next, the Court decided not to enforce the Pakistani rule of law that if the marriage agreement is silent, upon divorce neither party has a right to the property of the other. Again the court held that such a rule violated the public policy of Maryland.

For a better understanding of Maryland Marital Property Law as it would be applied in this or any other cases, the reader may wish to refer to prior posts.