International divorce cases may require recognition here, or comity, as one couple from Pakistan discovered. After a woman received nothing from her husband’s talaq divorce in Pakistan, she then sought a property division in a Texas divorce from her real estate developer husband. Is the Texas family court required to recognize the Pakistan divorce decree as valid?
A Scam in Pakistan?
The former wife, Azhar, and her former husband, Choudhri, were married in Pakistan. At that time, Azhar lived in Pakistan and her husband lived in Texas. After obtaining her visa, she traveled to Houston where they lived together as husband and wife.
The Wife returned to Pakistan to renew her visa. Reports claim she was tricked into going back to Pakistan so her husband could take advantage of Sharia Law to divorce her. While she was in Pakistan, he initiated a talaq divorce, the results of which meant she got nothing from the marriage.
The Wife filed for divorce in Texas, and the Husband tried to dismiss the case. Following the hearing, the trial court denied the Husband’s motion to dismiss based on comity, finding:
“enforcement of the certificate of divorce issued in Pakistan would be contrary to Texas public policy and would, if enforced, violate the Wife’s basic right to due process.”
Around the same time, the former wife was also challenging the Pakistan divorce in the Pakistan courts. At first, the Pakistan trial court ruled in the former wife’s favor, declaring their divorce void. But the former husband appealed, and the Pakistani appellate court reversed and dismissed the wife’s case. On appeal to the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the high court affirmed.
Back in Texas, the trial court entered a new order recognizing the Pakistan Supreme Court’s judgment that the divorce was valid. The Texas court dismissed the wife’s divorce action, and dismissed her property division claim with prejudice.
The wife appealed, arguing the trial court should not have granted comity to the Pakistani divorce because she was not personally served, and was only provided notice five days prior to the divorce by publication in a local circular.
In some cases, American courts may defer to the sovereignty of foreign nations according to principles of international comity. But U.S. states are not always required to give full faith and credit to foreign country judgments. For instance, a U.S. court will often decline to recognize a foreign divorce judgment if it was obtained without due process.
On appeal the Texas court found the original order dismissing the Texas divorce was made prior to the Pakistan Supreme Court’s involvement. The second Texas trial order recognizing the Pakistan Supreme Court was deserving of comity, and the Texas appellate court affirmed.
The opinion is available from MK Family Law here.