Two spouses, both citizens of Egypt and Muslims, married in a Civil Ceremony, followed by a Religious Ceremony in Egypt in July 2017. Defendant Husband moved to the U.S. in October 2017, and Plaintiff Wife moved to the U.S. in April 2019. They never lived together under the same roof in the United States. Both took up residence in separate homes in NY. In December 2021, Husband retained an Egyptian attorney who filed for divorce in Egypt, styling the case as a “religious or customary” divorce. Husband, while in the U.S., executed a power of attorney at the Egyptian Consulate, giving his lawyer full authority to represent him in the Egyptian proceedings. In February 2022, the Husband pronounced talaq in the Egyptian proceedings, divorcing the Wife. The day after the divorce, the Husband’s Egyptian lawyer telephoned the Wife and informed her that “in the presence of his attorney and two witnesses, … the Defendant uttered that he divorced his wife.” The attorney arranged for the Wife’s aunt to pick up the final divorce judgment from the Egyptian Maazoun’s office. The final judgment provided for Wife’s deferred dowry. Wife filed for divorce in NY on April 22, 2022. The Husband seeks to dismiss the NY action, arguing that the NY court should recognize the Egyptian divorce decree as a matter of comity.
Foreign divorce decrees obtained on the ex parte petition of a spouse present, but not domiciled, in the foreign country will not be recognized in NY where the other nonresident spouse does not appear and is not served with process. It was clear in this case that the Wife had no notice of the Egyptian proceedings, only learning of what occurred the day after the issuance of the final divorce decree. Therefore, the divorce decree is not entitled to recognition as a matter of comity.
The court discussed a variety of fundamental principles. It discussed the distinction between residence and domicile. It acknowledged that NY may recognize the in rem status of the divorce, even if it does not recognize the division of assets or disposition of other matters in the decree. It discussed the distinction between a customary divorce vs. a civil divorce. In this case, no one attempted to put any evidence of Egyptian law before the NY court. Ultimately, the court could not get past the lack of notice afforded to the Wife.