Thamilselvan v. Thamilselvan reads like a law school exam question. The spouses, both Indian citizens had lived in Michigan with their daughter since 2000. They owned a house. In December 2017, the Wife and daughter left the marital home. In February 2018, the Wife sought a divorce in Michigan, alleging abuse. The Husband then petitioned the Indian Family Court for “restoration of his conjugal rights” in an attempt to reconcile. He also asked for an injunction to prevent the Wife from continuing with her divorce action in Michigan. Despite her fighting the injunction, it was granted. The Husband then sought to amend his Answer in the Michigan divorce suit claiming he erroneously admitted the spouses were residents of Michigan. The court rejected the amendment. He also sought to dismiss the Michigan divorce suit, first using a comity argument in an attempt to recognize the Indian injunction, and then, when his first motion was denied, by arguing, mid-trial, that the parties had been in India for a month just prior to the Michigan action and so they had not been continuously resident for the requisite 180 days. This second motion was also dismissed. At the conclusion of the trial, the Husband filed a motion for relief from judgment and a motion for reconsideration, both of which were denied. He appealed.
The Michigan Court of Appeals concluded that only one spouse need be domiciled in Michigan for the requisite timeframe, and the Wife was, despite a temporary absence while in India. Furthermore, despite the parties being married under the Hindu Marriage Act in India, no one has petitioned an Indian court for divorce – the Husband sought a reconciliation in that court. Further, the Indian injunction is not entitled to recognition as a matter of comity. Comity is discretionary. While the parties were both able to participate in the Indian proceeding, and had due process, to recognize the injunction would infringe upon the Wife’s legal right to obtain a divorce in the state of Michigan. Michigan had adopted a no-fault divorce scheme and was firm in its belief that if a spouse does not want to remain married, that spouse has the right to petition the court for a divorce.