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Monday, March 12, 2012

Shariah Law and Divorce

In an unpublished decision released toward the end of last week, the Michigan Court of Appeals found fault with the Wayne County Family Court in a divorce case that touched on the application of Shariah law.

Specifically, the Hammoud case involved the imposition of spousal support in a realaitively short-term marriage. The Court of Appeals was troubled that the family court conditioned the duration of the "open ended" support on wife obtaining an "Islamic divorce" decree, noting:
As structured by the trial court, plaintiff has no incentive to become self-sufficient or to vigorously pursue an Islamic divorce as she is assured an ongoing income ad infinitum.  The trial court also failed to address or seek further clarification of plaintiff’s contention that she was in possession of a document that would permit others to assist or assure her the attainment of an Islamic divorce without defendant’s consent.  Plaintiff indicated that an agreement existed that would permit her brother and brother-in-law to authorize the Islamic divorce, potentially rendering it within plaintiff’s control to prolong her receipt of spousal support.

The implication, as held by the Court of Appeals, was that the family court pressured the husband into agreeing to an Islamic divorce when, under the establishment clause, it had no power to do so.

The Court of Appeals was not impressed with the lower court, the litigants, or their attorneys.  The case also featured an [untranslated] Arabic language prenuptial agreement proffered by husband to support his position that his wife agreed to forgo any spousal support.

The Hammoud case received national attention with a reference in Law Professor Eugene Volokh's law blog; the Volokh Conspiracy.

We here at the Law Blogger agree that family court is not the place for the implication or enforcement of religious laws; that is for the house of worship and is a private matter between the litigants.

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