Aleem v. Aleem (Md. Ct. App. 2008): Barring Unilateral Divorce

During trial court proceedings in which a Muslim couple was dividing their marital property, the husband, Mr. Irfan Aleem, attempted to perform a “triple ṭalāq” divorce—a form of final, irrevocable dissolution of marriage under Pakistani law, initiated unilaterally by the husband. The Court refused to honor this type of divorce, concluding that it violated due process rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment by not giving Mrs. Farah Aleem any role or voice in the divorce proceedings. The Court also concluded that allowing the ṭalāq divorce to replace court proceedings was contrary to the public policy interest of the people of Maryland, as it would allow Pakistani version of Islamic law, which grants all property to the husband as the default in divorce cases, to regulate distribution of property in the state of Maryland. The Court thus upheld the ruling of the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, granting the wife’s petition for divorce, and applied the Maryland default rule that, in the absence of prior written agreement, marital property is to be divided fairly and equitably.

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