The Kentucky Supreme Court addressed a Husband’s request for a writ of mandamus to compel his family court judge, Judge Hagerty, to dismiss his Wife’s petition for a divorce because he had already secured a divorce in Jordan.
For purposes of this blog, I am going to skip over the merits of the writ of mandamus arguments and whether Husband was entitled to one (note: he was not). I do want to discuss the basic tenets of these simultaneous (or proximate) divorce proceedings in the U.S. and overseas.
In the case of Iqtaifan v. Hagerty, the court elaborated on the following facts. Mr. Iqtaifan met his Wife and married her in Jordan in 2005. They then moved to Kentucky, where they resided for the entirety of their marriage, and where both of their children were born. In July 2017, the parties traveled to Jordan to visit family, and it was apparently during this timeframe where Mr. Iqtaifan pronounced talaq and commenced Jordanian divorce proceedings, without his Wife’s knowledge. They returned to Kentucky, and continued residing together, until late August 2017, when there was an incident of domestic violence, and a subsequent no-contact order. The order did not address contact between Mr. Iqtaifan and his children, so, when his Wife did not permit him to see the children, he filed a custody petition, which he later had to refile because his lawyer never served his Wife. In both custody petitions, and in an intervening court hearing on December 19, 2017, Mr. Iqtaifan stated that he was married. On January 25, 2018, his Wife filed for divorce in Kentucky, which he then sought to dismiss on the basis of the Jordanian divorce decree. On February 11, 2018, his Jordanian divorce apparently became final, unbeknownst to his Wife.
The parties disputed whether the Jordanian divorce decree was even valid. More specifically, as argued by the Wife, during the period of Idda after her Husband says he pronounced talaq, he continued residing with her, and she continued performing wifely duties. Furthermore, he held the couple out as being married during that time. This, she argued, should have prohibited the Jordanian decree from being finalized under Jordan’s domestic divorce laws. But, Judge Hagerty lacked sufficient evidence to make a determination as to whether the divorce was properly concluded and valid in Jordan. In fact, it is, in all likelihood, irrelevant whether the Jordan divorce was proper and valid. Judge Hagerty exercised her discretion to not recognize the divorce as a matter of comity. Judge Hagerty expressed doubts about the validity of the Jordanian divorce because neither party was a domicile of Jordan. (Note – not every country requires domicile to grant a divorce, but this argument does bear weight with whether it should be recognized as a matter of comity). In the end, she refused the “divorce decree’s” recognition, and Mr. Iqtaifan’s Wife was permitted to proceed with her Kentucky divorce petition.