Tag: divorce international

Is January Divorce Month?

The BBC reports that the first Monday of the New Year has long been known among U.K. solicitors and counsellors (in the U.S. lawyers) as “Divorce Day”. However, in Wales and increasingly around the world, it appears this divorce phenomenon is turning January into “Divorce Month”.

Divorce New Years

New Year, New You

One law firm in the U.K. has reported to the BBC that enquiries in January have spiked at about 150% of the November, December and February average. A relationship counselling charity also said it had seen an increase in couple’s asking for help.

“In terms of stressors on a relationship, Christmas can be right up there with moving house or having a child. There’s the pressure of being cooped up at home with your extended family, or at the other end of the spectrum, not seeing as much of them as you’d like because of work commitments.”

The phenomenon on divorce filings in January is not unique to Wales either. In general, many family lawyers in North America report a rise of nearly one-third in business in the New Year. In fact The president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (the AAML), says he typically sees a spike of 25% to 30% every year in January.

Being cooped up in a house for several days when a marriage is experiencing serious problems — while dealing with the pressure to put on a happy face for the kids and visiting relatives — takes its toll on the most stoic of couples.

Holiday time is usually a time when U.S. lawyers (in the U.K. solicitors and counsellors) get a spike in consultations and in being retained by clients. Holiday time is usually fraught with a lot of tension, emotion and financial issues, which is usually the trigger.

Florida No-Fault Divorce

The official term for divorce in Florida is “dissolution of marriage”, and you don’t need fault as a ground for divorce. Florida abolished fault as a ground for divorce.

I’ve written about divorce and statistics – such as the the new year phenomenon – before. The no-fault concept in Florida means you no longer have to prove a reason for the divorce, like your husband’s alleged infidelity with a congresswoman. Instead, you just need to state under oath that your marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

Before the no-fault divorce era, people who wanted to get divorce either had to reach agreement in advance with the other spouse that the marriage was over, or throw mud at each other and prove wrongdoing like adultery or abuse.

No-fault laws were the result of trying to change the way divorces played out in court. No fault laws have reduced the number of feuding couples who felt the need to resort to distorted facts, lies, and the need to focus the trial on who did what to whom.

Wailing in Wales

In Wales, one lawyer reports rising inflation and costs for good is having an impact on filing for divorce this year. He is finding that there is increasing anxiety over the rise of prices, and wailing about how to heat the home, never mind finding money for Christmas presents. He also reported the Christmas break was a snapshot of what couples experienced during the height of the Covid pandemic.

One charity said many couples expected their relationships to come under increased strain over the coming months, with financial worries, mental health problems and the pressure to create the perfect Christmas cited as reasons.

The pressure seems to be universal, across all ages, married or cohabiting, and straight or same-sex relationships, though the causes do vary according to their age. For the under 35s money worries account for about half the problems identified, with the difficulties of having to live with parents if you can’t afford your own home, and the increase in prices.

However for older couples other factors come into play, such as parenting, and the toll of caring for elderly relatives in an aging population. Communication is vital at any stage of a relationship, but especially so in the early days. Often counselling can help them to understand what has gone wrong, to part as amicably as possible, and avoid making the same mistakes in future relationships.

In Florida, you can file for divorce, and then you have a period of time before you have to serve the papers. Most unhappy spouses wait until after the turkey has been carved, the gifts have been unwrapped, and the new year has started.

The BBC article is here.

International Divorce and Comity

International divorce cases may require recognition or enforcement in your home country. But when your international divorce decree is subject to dismissal for lack of jurisdiction though, it is not a laughing matter. That is where knowing about the concept of comity may help.

Divorce Comity

Comity Hour

Carmen filed her divorce in Nebraska, claiming she and her husband Arlin were married in Omaha, had no children, that her husband was a Nebraska resident and that she is “not now a party to any other pending action for divorce, separation or dissolution of marriage.” Carmen wanted a divorce to divide their property and debts.

Carmen’s husband tried to dismiss the divorce for lack of jurisdiction. While he admitted they got married in Nebraska on March 8, 2003, he said they were also married in Venezuela on March 11, 2003.

The punchline: they were already legally divorced in Venezuela.

Since they were no longer legally married, the husband asked the court to dismiss the divorce for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and other grounds.

Florida Divorce and Comity

I have written about international divorce issues before. In Florida, a person must have resided in Florida for 6 months before the filing of the petition for the court to have jurisdiction over your divorce. The term “reside” generally means a legal residence in Florida with an intention to stay there, as opposed to a temporary residence.

However, when children are involved, or you are seeking financial assistance, such as alimony, child support, or a division of property, the court needs to have jurisdiction over your spouse too.

There are even more complex, multi-state laws which impact if a court can hear a divorce, the children’s issues, or the family support issues.

Recognizing a foreign divorce is different. In general, where courts in one country have concurrent jurisdiction over substantially similar parties and claims, the court which first exercises its jurisdiction acquires exclusive jurisdiction to proceed with that divorce. This is known as the principle of priority.

While the principle of priority is not a duty, as a matter of comity, courts may stay a pending divorce on the grounds that a case involving the same subject matter and parties is pending in the court of another U.S. state. But the principle of comity applies – not only to proceedings pending in two different U.S. state courts – but to divorce cases pending in foreign courts too.

Comity Isn’t Pretty

Back in Nebraska, the parties focused their arguments exclusively on whether the Venezuelan divorce decree should be recognized as valid in Nebraska under principles of comity.

The family court dismissed Carmen’s complaint with prejudice, stating: The question before the Court is whether the Venezuelan Decree is valid. On that issue, Carmen argued the Venezuelan decree was invalid and she was therefore entitled to seek a decree of dissolution in Nebraska.

Arlin, on the other hand, argued the Venezuelan decree was valid in Nebraska and the parties were already legally divorced, so the Nebraska dissolution action should be dismissed. The family court agreed with the husband and found the Venezuelan decree was valid in Nebraska. The Wife appealed.

The Supreme Court of Nebraska reversed. The court reasoned that the husband’s evidence did not show the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the divorce. As long as the trial court had met the basic requirements, it had jurisdiction.

The family court confused the doctrine of comity with subject matter jurisdiction. The doctrine of priority is not the same thing as subject matter jurisdiction. A subsequent court does not lack the judicial power over a divorce. The issue of whether a foreign divorce decree should be recognized, the principle of comity, is not a matter of subject matter jurisdiction – or grounds for dismissal.

Whether the Venezuelan divorce decree is entitled to recognition under principles of comity was still a contested issue in the divorce, and that issue did not impact the family court’s subject matter jurisdiction.

The Supreme Court of Nebraska opinion is here.

Speaking on International Child Custody in Morocco

Looking forward to speaking about international child custody on a panel with IAFL fellow attorneys: Sarah Hutchinson from England, Elisha D. Roy from the U.S., and Frances Goldsmith from France. We will be discussing international issues arising under the UCCJEA for non-U.S. attorneys.

UCCJEA Morocco a

Hot Child Custody Issues

From the beaches of Sarasota to the Sahara desert, international child custody today is a hot issue – and admittedly a little dry too. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (the UCCJEA) and The Hague Convention on international child abductions are two well-known laws with international importance which can impact your case.

Parents are increasingly moving from country to country for various reasons. Whether children are moved by parents wrongfully or not, that moving makes international child custody complicated.

The UCCJEA is a uniform state law regarding jurisdiction in child custody cases. It specifies which court should decide a custody case, not how the court should decide the case. The  UCCJEA and The Hague Convention on Child Abduction can overlap in certain cases, and the jurisdiction of each law can differ in important ways too.

Florida and almost all U.S. states passed the UCCJEA into law. The most fundamental aspect of the UCCJEA is the approach to the jurisdiction needed to start a case, enforce an existing child custody determination, and modify one. There are also several foreign laws which can interact with your child custody determination.

More information on the IAFL can be found here.

Divorce Planning and Residency

As cold winds begin to blow, marriages start to feel the chill. Recent statistics show divorce rates rising by nearly 10 percent in some places. This means divorce planning. Your residency, the state where you file your divorce, can have a big impact on the outcome.

Divorce Residency

 

Florida Divorce and Taxes

The 2018 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act increased the tax incentives for people to move to Florida, both for older and younger taxpayers. One reason is because Florida is one of only a few U.S. states with no state income tax. Another reason is the dolphins.

New York, unlike Florida, has income tax rates exceeding eight percent. In New York, there is also an additional income tax levied within New York City. Similarly, California has a state income tax. The rates in California can reach up to 12.3 percent, in addition to a one percent mental health services tax applied to incomes exceeding $1m.

However, the tax implications aren’t the only impacts to consider when deciding to change your residency. Residency and domicile are the terms often used around the country in different states to describe the location of a person’s home, the place to which a person intends to return and remain, even if they reside elsewhere.

Because a lot of interest has developed in changing residence and domicile – primarily for the best tax savings – the question remains: do you qualify? States examine many factors to determine your permanent home.

The residency analysis can include how much time is spent in a state, where your car is registered, where you bank, what state you vote in, what you declare on your tax returns, and where your dentist or doctor is.

State and local tax laws differ from state to state, and they are enforced based on your place of residence. While there are major tax implications of changing your home, there are some important divorce issues to consider on top of the tax savings.

Florida Divorce and Residency

I have written about divorce planning in the past. In Florida, divorce is called “dissolution of marriage”. In order to file for dissolution of marriage in Florida, at least one of the spouses to the marriage must reside six months in the state before the filing of the petition.

Residency under Florida law usually means an actual presence in Florida coupled with an intention at that time to make Florida the residence.

In Florida, there is a difference between domicile and residence. A person’s domicile in Florida, involves the subjective intent of the person. Residence, on the other hand, is a matter of objective fact.

Although the state residency requirement has been construed to mean you must reside in Florida for the six months immediately preceding the divorce filing, courts have recognized exceptions. For example, Florida allows military and government personnel to file for divorce – without proving their actual presence in the state during the six-month statutory period – prior to the filing of their petitions of dissolution.

Under this exception, when a Florida resident is stationed outside the state by the military, the person did not lose their Florida residency, and could file for divorce – even though she had not been physically present in the state for the immediately preceding six-month period.

Moving to the Sunshine State

Before picking up and moving your residence or domicile to Florida to save on state income taxes, there are other things you may want to consider that can impact your legal rights and your savings.

For one, there’s a difference between equitable distribution states and community property states. The effect of moving from an equitable distribution state to a state with community property ownership, may have a huge impact on your property rights.

Many western states are community property states. In California, a community property state, marriage makes two people one legal “community.” Any property or debt acquired by one person during the marriage belongs to the community. In a divorce proceeding, community property is generally split equally by the court.

Conversely, Florida is an equitable distribution state.  In a divorce proceeding the court distributes the marital assets and liabilities with only the premise that the distribution should be equal. However, there may be a justification for an unequal distribution based on certain statutory factors.

The differences between states are not limited to property division. Each state has different local laws to deal with alimony, child support, child custody, and even prenuptial and postnuptial agreements.

Changing the state you live in can be complex, and there are factors besides the tax savings to consider before making any change.

The Crain’s Chicago article is here.

The Hague Convention Meets the Best Interest Test

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child determined that the Supreme Court of Chile violated the rights of a child after ordering the child returned to his habitual residence of Spain without applying the best interest test.

Hague Convention Best Interest Test

Answering An Andes Abduction

The Mother is a national of Chile. In 2015, she married the Father, a national of Spain. In January 2016, her son J.M., a dual Spanish Chilean citizen, was born in Chile. The Mother and her son left Chile to live with the Father in Spain in November 2016.

When J.M. was a little over a year old and living in Spain with both parents, medical professionals suspected he had a language delay and a form of autism.

Shortly after this spectrum diagnosis, the mother wanted to bring J.M. to Chile where she had arranged his treatment and support plan. The mother wanted to stay in Chile for at least two years.

In July 2017, the father signed an authorization for the mother to travel with J.M. to Chile, where the mother scheduled treatments and support for autism. They decided to stay in the country for at least two years. and had the father’s written approval to travel.

In 2018, one year after authorizing the travel, the father filed a complaint with the Central Authority in Spain, the Ministry of Justice, for wrongful abduction and/or retention of J.M. under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

In January 2019, two lower courts in Chile agreed with the Mother and rejected the father’s return petition. The courts rejected the father’s claim on the grounds that he had given the tacit, even explicit, consent to remain in Chile, which has been the child’s place of habitual residence since birth.

In September 2019, the Supreme Court of Chile overturned the lower courts’ decisions and ordered the child returned to Spain. The Supreme Court did not indicate the conditions under which J.M.’s return should take place, in whose company he should travel, or where and with whom he would ultimately reside and in what circumstances.

The Mother filed a complaint before the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child  in 2020.

Hague Child Abduction Convention

I have written and spoken on international custody and child abduction under the Hague Convention. The Convention’s mission is basic: to return children to the State of their habitual residence to require any custody disputes to be resolved in that country, and to discourage parents from taking matters into their own hands by abducting or retaining a child.

The removal or the retention of a child is to be considered wrongful where it is in breach of rights of custody under the law of the State in which the child was habitually resident immediately before the removal or retention; and at the time of removal or retention those rights were actually exercised, either jointly or alone, or would have been so exercised but for the removal or retention.

While there are several defenses to a return of a child, the best interest of the child is not one of those defenses. That’s because the Hague Convention prioritizes expeditious determinations as being in the best interests of the child.

UN-Heard Of

The U.N. Committee held that the Chile Supreme Court’s order for the restitution of J.M. to Spain failed to conduct a best interests assessment required in all actions concerning children, and violated the child’s procedural guarantees under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Committee noted that, under the Hague Convention, decisions on the return of children must be taken promptly to ensure that the child’s normal situation is duly restored. However, the Committee considered that the purpose and objective of the Hague Convention does not entail that a return of the child should be automatically ordered.

The Committee held that in international child abduction cases, states must first assess the factors that may constitute an exception to the duty to immediately return the child under articles 12, 13 and 20 of the Hague Convention, and then secondly, these factors must be evaluated in the light of the best interests of the child.

The Committee did not find that the child should necessarily remain in Chile. Instead, it found that the Supreme Court of Chile failed to apply the necessary procedural safeguards to ensure that return would not expose the child to harm or a situation contrary to his best interests:

A court applying the Hague Convention cannot be required to carry out the same level of examination of the best interests of the child as the courts called upon to decide on custody, visitation arrangements or other related issues . . . the judge ruling on the return must assess . . . the extent to which the return would expose him or her to physical or psychological harm or otherwise be clearly against his or her best interests.

The U.N. Committee ruled that Chile should re-assess the return petition, take into account the length of time elapsed, the extent of J.M.’s integration in Chile, and pay reparations for the violations suffered, including compensation.

The Committee also ruled that Chile should try a little harder to prevent future violations by ensuring the best interests of the child are a primary consideration in decisions concerning international return.

The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child press release is here.

International Child Abduction Action Report

Every year international child abduction cases are reported to the Congress by the U.S. Department of State. These annual Action Reports show Congress the actions taken against countries determined to have been engaged in a pattern of noncompliance. So, which countries in our hemisphere were noncompliant?

International Abduction Action Report

2022 Action Report

Under the Hague Convention, the State Department is tasked as our Central Authority. The Central Authority facilitates implementation and operation of the Hague Convention on child abduction in the U.S.

After passage of the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act, the State Department was later assigned the duty of submitting annual Action Reports on International Child Abduction to Congress on the specific actions taken in response to countries determined to have been engaged in a pattern of noncompliance.

The 2022 Annual Report is an overview of the Department’s efforts to support the resolution of international parental child abduction cases.

The Department also reports on their work with foreign governments and authorities to promote procedures to encourage the prompt resolution of existing international abduction cases. The aim is that, in general, international custody disputes should be resolved in the competent court of the country of the child’s habitual residence.

Countries which don’t meet their Convention obligations, or fail to work with the U.S. to resolve child abduction cases, can face “appropriate actions.”

Florida International Child Abduction

I’ve written and spoken about international child abduction cases under the Hague Convention before. The Hague Convention seeks to deter child abductions by a parent by eliminating their primary motivation for doing so: to “deprive the abduction parent’s actions of any practical or juridical consequences.”

The removal or the retention of a child is to be considered wrongful where it is in breach of rights of custody attributed to a person, an institution or any other body, either jointly or alone, under the law of the State in which the child was habitually resident immediately before the removal or retention; and at the time of removal or retention those rights were actually exercised, either jointly or alone, or would have been so exercised but for the removal or retention.

The Hague Convention is implemented in the United States through the International Child Abduction Remedies Act. Then in 2014, the International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act was signed into law.

Even if a country is a signatory country and treaty partners with the U.S., returning a wrongfully retained or abducted child may still be complicated because some signatory countries are not complying with the Convention. That is where the State Department’s Action Report comes in.

ICAPRA increases the State Department’s annual reporting requirements. Each year, the Department not only submits an Annual Report on International Child Abduction to Congress, it submits another report on the actions taken towards countries determined to have been engaged in a pattern of noncompliance.

A Carnival of Noncompliance

The State Department Action Report includes both countries where there is a treaty relationship with the United States under the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention, and countries where no treaty relationship exists.

The 2022 Action Report reviews the results of cases which were resolved the previous year. Some of the countries in our hemisphere which failed to regularly implement and comply with the Hague Convention include Argentina, Belize, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Brazil.

Brazil has had the Convention in force with the U.S. since 2003. Brazil has also demonstrated a pattern of noncompliance for years. Complaints have criticized its judicial authorities for failing to regularly implement and comply with the Convention, and failing to take appropriate steps to locate children in abduction cases. Brazil has previously been cited for a pattern of noncompliance since 2006.

Brazil is also the country where David Goldman had to fight for his son Sean to be returned to the United States after his wrongful retention by his mother. Sean was only returned to the U.S. after 5 years. The Goldman’s bitter experience in Brazil led to the passage of the ICAPRA.

However, the country of Brazil is not entirely on siesta. Among other steps, Brazil increased its number of Hague Network Judges, published a manual for judges hearing Convention cases, and resolved eight U.S. cases on file – including the return of six children to the United States.

ICAPRA also adds steps the U.S. can take when a country refuses to cooperate in the resolution of overseas abduction and access cases involving American children. The steps can include: a demarche (a petition or protest through diplomatic channels); public condemnation; delay or cancelation of official, or state visits; suspension of U.S. development assistance; and even the withdrawal or suspension of U.S. security assistance.

The 2022 Action Report is available here.

Divorce Rates in the Arab World

The increase in international divorce rates, due in part to changes in the nature of family and family life, can be seen thoughout the Arab world. Lebanon, in particular, is reporting a marked jump in divorces as more statistics become available.

Arab Divorce Rates

As the Simoom Blows

The Arab world is not insulated from the profound socio-economic changes around the world, and this is evident from the rise in the number of couples choosing to separate in several Middle Eastern and North African countries.

A recent study by the Egyptian Cabinet’s Information and Decision Support Center found that Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan and Qatar are the Arab countries with the highest divorce rates.

In Kuwait, 48 percent of all marriages end in divorce, 40 percent in Egypt, 37.2 percent in Jordan, 37 percent in Qatar, and 34 percent in both the UAE and Lebanon.

Sheikh Wassim Yousef Al-Falah, a Shariah judge at Beirut’s religious court, told Arab News recently:

“On some days, we have up to 16 divorce cases in this court alone. The increasing divorce rate is a phenomenon that we have not seen before, although we do not favor divorce and focus on reconciliation.”

Experts believe this trend has been driven by a combination of economic pressures, evolving societal norms, legal reforms and, above all, the changing role of women.

Florida Divorce

I’ve written international divorce rates before. In the United States, many complained that no-fault divorce led to an increase in divorce rates here. Historically in Florida, in order to obtain a divorce one had to prove the existence of legal grounds such as adultery.

Proving fault often required additional expenses on behalf of the aggrieved party, only serving to make the divorce process more expensive and cumbersome than it already was.

In the years leading up to the enactment of “no-fault” divorce, courts often granted divorces on bases that were easier to prove, the most common being “mental cruelty.”

Over time, the “no-fault” movement expanded to other states, although interestingly it only reached the typically progressive state of New York in 2010. Whether or not it is intimacy or communication, you do not need to list a reason for a divorce other than an irretrievable break in the marriage.

Like the Cedars of Lebanon

Through much of history, especially among the more conservative cultures of the Arab world, a woman’s place was long considered to be in the home, handling the needs of the family, while male relatives studied and went to work.

Now, as Arab nations modernize their economies and reform their legal systems, women are becoming more independent, increasingly pursuing higher education, progressing in their careers, and choosing to marry and have children later in life.

As a result, Arab women have developed a keener awareness of their civil rights, personal ambitions and self-respect. They increasingly refuse to tolerate domestic violence and are capable of supporting themselves financially.

“The current statistics compiled by the religious courts that handle the personal status of Lebanese citizens and foreigners residing in Lebanon reflect an increase in divorce requests, especially those submitted by women.”

In Lebanon, where a large segment of the population has moved abroad to find jobs with better salaries, the difficulty of maintaining a long-distance relationship also appears to play a part in marriage breakdown.

Reforms to the legal status of women in Lebanon have drawn particular attention in recent years, with the introduction of a slew of legislation designed to protect them from sexual harassment and domestic abuse. However, human rights monitors say the reforms do not go far enough.

Lebanon’s 2019 financial collapse and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic appear to have piled further pressure on relationships as living standards plummeted, people lost their jobs and households were forced into long periods of constant close proximity under lockdown.

Several countries around the world reported spikes in domestic violence during the pandemic and Lebanon is no exception. The nation’s economic woes and disruption to court procedures during the health crisis appear to be making matters worse.

The figures for divorce in Lebanon might be somewhat skewed by the growing use of marriage as a means of gaining citizenship in another country, as waves of young people move abroad in search of better opportunities.

In Lebanon, where a large segment of the population has moved abroad to find jobs with better salaries, the difficulty of maintaining a long-distance relationships also appears to play a part in marriage breakdown.

Lebanese citizens will often move between sects to facilitate a divorce. Couples from the Maronite sect, for instance, the courts of which forbid the annulment of marriage in all but the most extreme circumstances, might turn instead to the Catholic or Orthodox sects, which allow the annulment of marriages.

They might even turn to the Sunni sect to access divorce procedures before converting back to their original sect. According to Shariah, divorce — known as khula — has been permitted since the time of Prophet Muhammad.

Obtaining a divorce in a Sunni religious court is considered easier than in a Shiite religious court, after these courts developed new rules that raised the age for child custody, amended the dowry and banned underage marriage.

Family values are cherished in Arab culture, and authorities — both religious and secular — tend to prefer that parents stay together for the sake of their children. Experts believe marriage counseling, better education for young couples, more open discussions about relationships, and even a relaxation of the social taboos surrounding premarital social interaction between men and women could help reduce overall divorce rates.

The Arab News article is here.

Hague Convention, Domestic Violence, and Rights of Custody

Questions arise about a parent’s right of custody in every international custody case, especially Hague Convention child abduction cases. A Colorado district court recently had to make the tough call whether a parent lost his rights of custody after a domestic violence injunction was put in place against him.

Hague Rights of Custody

Rocky Mountain High

In February 2015, an Australian citizen and a United States citizen married in Las Vegas. They lived in the U.S. for the next two years before traveling to Australia with their three-month-old son – who was born in Australia. They lived a nomadic lifestyle, taking numerous trips, moving frequently between rental properties, staying occasionally with family and friends, and camping in a trailer and tent.

In April 2021, while staying at an Airbnb, the parents had an argument which resulted in the Father being escorted to the police station. By the time he returned to the Airbnb, the Mother had left. The Mother had also obtained a temporary protection order against the father based on allegations of domestic violence.

The domestic violence protection order provided the Father:

must not approach to within 100 metres of where [Mother or the children] live[ ], work[ ] or frequent[ ]—except for the purposes of having contact with children but only as set out in writing between the parties or in compliance with an order under the Family Law Act or when contact with a child is authorised by a representative of the Department of Communities (Child Safety).

The order also provides that Father “must not contact or attempt to contact or arrange for someone else (other than a lawyer) to contact” Respondent or the children . . . and “must not follow or remain or approach to within 100 metres” of Mother or the children. The order was subsequently made permanent for a period of five years.

In May 2021, the Mother and the children came to the United States, and they have lived in Colorado ever since. The Father filed an action seeking return of the children under the Hague Convention and in breach of his custody rights under Australian law.

International Child Custody and the Hague Convention

I have written and spoken on international custody and child abduction under the Hague Convention. The Convention’s mission is basic: to return children to the State of their habitual residence to require any custody disputes to be resolved in that country, and to discourage parents from taking matters into their own hands by abducting a child.

The removal or the retention of a child is to be considered wrongful where it is in breach of rights of custody under the law of the State in which the child was habitually resident immediately before the removal or retention; and at the time of removal or retention those rights were actually exercised, either jointly or alone, or would have been so exercised but for the removal or retention.

Rights of custody can arise by operation of law or by reason of a judicial or administrative decision, or by reason of an agreement having legal effect under the law of that State. Rights of custody include rights relating to the care of the person of the child and, in particular, the right to determine the child’s place of residence.

Slippery Slope

The Colorado judge found that the Father failed to show what custody rights, if any, he retained under the Australian Family Law Act. After the domestic violence injunction was made permanent for five years, the Father had the burden to prove what his rights of custody were after the injunction — a prerequisite to establishing that his children’s removal was in breach of his rights of custody.

The Father gave no evidence or testimony on the matter and the Court did not want to assume what remaining rights he had after the order and whether they were substantial enough that  removal of the children breached his rights.

Not every court has held that the entry of a domestic violence injunction meant the loss of rights of custody under the Hague Convention. In a Maryland case, a court found that a domestic violence injunction was aimed at protecting the safety of the Mother, rather than rescinding parental rights of the Father. Accordingly, the domestic violence injunction was not found to be the equivalent of an order rescinding parental rights.

The case is available here.

Is A Telephone Marriage Valid

After a Husband challenged the validity of his Bangladesh telephone marriage, many brides should be concerned whether their religious marriage is valid. A family judge in Ohio, presiding over the parties’ divorce, recently ruled that their Bangladesh telephone marriage was valid. But, how would an appellate court view it?

Marriage Valid

A Fairy Tale Telephone Wedding

On August 22, 2005, a couple got married during a telephone marriage ceremony, which was conducted over a speaker phone.

At the time of the wedding, husband resided in the United States, wife resided in Bangladesh, and both were citizens of Bangladesh. The Husband traveled to New York and was with friends and relatives during the ceremony. Wife was in Bangladesh with friends and family members and husband’s father.

Also present in Bangladesh was a person who solemnized the marriage and identified himself as an assistant marriage registrar, and a community leader who appeared to sign the marriage register on husband’s behalf as his “pleader.”

Pictures of the marriage ceremony were provided and witnesses said the solemnization was according to Sharia law.

On July 15, 2019, after wife filed for divorce in Ohio, the Husband countered arguing that their marriage was invalid under Bangladesh law. The Husband reasoned that because the marriage was unlawfully registered in violation of the Muslim Marriages & Divorces Registration Act, the marriage was invalid and his Wife was not entitled to spousal support or property rights.

But the Wife countered that under Bangladesh law, an invalid registration would not render an otherwise valid marriage invalid. That’s because it is purely a civil contract, and further, that neither writing nor any religious ceremony is essential to validate a marriage under Bangladesh law.

The trial court disagreed with the Husband, and entered summary judgment and then a divorce. The Husband appealed.

Florida Marriage Validity

I’ve written about marriage validity, and the intersection between religious marriage and civil marriage before. First off, in order to be validly married in Florida, you need a license from the government.

Getting a marriage license may seem like a trivial obligation, but if you want your religious marriage recognized in court, you must get a marriage license.

There is a fee for getting a marriage license, and that fee is reduced for attending pre-marital counseling. The license is valid for 60 days. The officiant at the ceremony must certify that the marriage was solemnized.

The certified marriage license must be returned to the clerk or an issuing judge within 10 days, and the clerk or judge is required to keep a correct record of certified marriage licenses.

Florida courts have repeatedly warned people that they cannot depart from the requirement of the Florida Statutes to have a license, otherwise the courts would be creating common-law marriages, which are not recognized here.

If you only have the religious marriage, but do not file for a marriage license, your marriage will not likely be recognized, and you cannot divorce, and cannot make claims for equitable distribution, or ask a court for alimony.

The Mesh in Bangladesh

The Husband appealed after the trial court concluded his Nikah Nama marriage was valid. He argued on appeal that the trial court erred because of the lack of a validly executed contract and an invalid registration under Bangladesh law.

The appellate court found that the parties’ marriage in Bangladesh was valid. Wife demonstrated that their telephone marriage met the essentials of a valid Mohammedan and Bangladeshi marriage, and that registration of the marriage is not an essential element in order to establish the validity of a marriage.

The evidence also showed that the parties had a prolonged and relatively continuous cohabitation for over 12-years, held themselves out as husband and wife, they consummated the marriage, and they had a child together.

In a concurrence, one judge expressed his incredulity with the Husband’s position that there was no legal marriage. After all, the Husband entered into this country for his spouse, filed joint U.S. tax returns with her, and also took advantage of his employer’s generosity by getting a tuition benefit for the spouse of an employee.

The appellate opinion is here.

 

Arab Divorce Rates

Much like divorce rates around the world, according to recent studies, Arab divorce rates throughout the Middle East and North Africa have been increasing in recent years. Many are openly discussing the reasons why.

Arab divorce rates

Riddle of the Sphinx

A study by the Egyptian Cabinet’s Information and Decision Support Center found that Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan and Qatar are the four countries in the Arab world with the highest divorce rate, which rose to 48% of all marriages in Kuwait, 40% in Egypt, 37.2% in Jordan and 37% in Qatar.

Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates follow with 34%. A licensed psychologist and family therapist at the American Hospital in Dubai told The Media Line that the majority of people seeking out couples therapy are females who sometimes manage to convince their male partners to join afterward.

“Arab females have gained a lot of self-awareness and are thriving toward their self- actualization, so sometimes these clashes with the Arab image of the woman being a homemaker”.

Mahmood Al Oraibi, an attorney in Bahrain said that many different aspects of the Arab community have changed, and divorce is just one of those changes. Women now are independent, they are educated, they have some power, they have some demands.

The Arab community is still struggling between the past. Women were just housewives, and they handled the needs of the entire family, taking care of their husbands as well as his parents, cousins and their own children. In the modern world there are working women who are independent, and who come home late after spending 8 hours to 10 hours away from home.

Florida Divorce

I’ve written international divorce rates before. In the United States, many complained that no-fault divorce led to an increase in divorce rates here. Historically in Florida, in order to obtain a divorce one had to prove the existence of legal grounds such as adultery.

Proving fault often required additional expenses on behalf of the aggrieved party, only serving to make the divorce process more expensive and cumbersome than it already was.

In the years leading up to the enactment of “no-fault” divorce, courts often granted divorces on bases that were easier to prove, the most common being “mental cruelty.”

Over time, the “no-fault” movement expanded to other states, although interestingly it only reached the typically progressive state of New York in 2010. Whether or not it is intimacy or communication, you do not need to list a reason for a divorce other than an irretrievable break in the marriage.

Arab World Divorce Rates

An Egyptian sociology teacher living in Kuwait, believes that divorce has increased due to women having the freedom to speak their minds and make their own decisions, unlike in years past.

“Women are educated now and have their own careers, so when they decide to get a divorce, they will not have financial worries since they can now support themselves”.

According to some analysts, the increased divorce rate has also changed women. High levels of divorce have forced women to depend on themselves, which have made women grow stronger and forced men to learn to respect women.

The Arab community is considered very conservative. Pre-marital relations are not permissible socially, religiously – and in some cases – by law. So, people who are newly married get into relationships with no experience. On top of that, the community is very reluctant to sit and talk in a transparent way about all the pros and cons in marriage.

Al Oraibi believes that the best way to lower the divorce rate is for couples to try to interact with each other before marriage, or to take time to get to know each other better after they get married and before having children.

As a lawyer in Bahrain, Al Oraibi explained that divorce is a right for both men and women. Despite that, he noted that men can choose to divorce women without the need for proving justification. Women, on the other hand, have to provide proof of a justification for ending the marriage.

Islamic laws concerning divorce can also differ between the Shia and the Sunni courts. For instance, said Al Oraibi, according to Sunni law, the man has the right to divorce without any witness; while in the Shia court, at least two witnesses are required.

The Media Line article is here.