Court applies New York “get” law in Muslim divorce

In Majdeh M. v. Jamshid A., (Kings Co. NY Sup. Ct., July 4, 2012), a New York trial court applied New York’s “Get” Law, Domestic Relations Law Sec. 236 [B] [5] [h] (originally enacted to deal with Jewish divorce issues), to an action involving maintenance and equitable distribution awards in a Muslim divorce. The court held:

In the case at bar, the wife testified that she is a Muslim and if she does not obtain a religious divorce she will be unable to remarry. Although she will be divorced in accordance with secular law, she will not be considered a single woman within her religious community. She further testified that in the event she were to travel to Iran that her husband, or then ex-husband, could withhold his permission for her to leave Iran. The court credits the wife’s testimony that she made arrangements for the parties to meet at a local mosque to address the religious divorce but that the husband simply did not respond…. 

The credible testimony by the wife leads this court to find that the husband’s refusal to give the wife a religious divorce, thereby removing barriers to her remarriage, is a basis to exercise its discretion under Domestic Relations Law 236 [B] [5] [h] to disproportionately distribute marital assets. The husband shall have 45 days from the date of this decision to take any necessary steps to remove any barriers to the wife’s remarriage. In the event that the husband fails to comply, he shall forfeit the maintenance and equitable distribution award made herein and repay to the wife the $4,000.00 cash advance heretofore discussed.

The court also held that the parties’ mehrieh (dowry agreement), while not enforceable in a matrimonial action, can be enforced as a separate contract claim. It rejected the husband’s contention that the mehrieh is merely a religious document.