Husband and Wife, both citizens of Nigeria, married in Lagos in 2003. In 2004, they moved to Maryland and have resided primarily in Maryland since that time. Husband is a dual national with the USA, has resided in the USA since 1975, owns property in the USA since 1981, pays the mortgage, taxes, and is employed in Maryland. He is twice divorced – both in Maryland. He votes in Maryland. Wife is a permanent resident of the USA, and resides with her sister in Maryland since the separation.
On February 19, 2020, Husband filed for divorce in Nigeria, saying he was “domiciled in Nigeria for purposes of Nigerian matrimonial law.” After unsuccessful service attempts, he withdrew the petition, and refiled it on October 28, 2020. He listed Wife’s family address in Lagos on the 2nd filing. After substituted service on her family in Lagos, on June 29, 2021, Wife filed a preliminary objection to the Nigerian court’s jurisdiction. On May 25, 2021, Wife filed for divorce in Maryland. After being served, Husband sought to dismiss the Maryland suit for lack of jurisdiction (arguing that the Nigerian proceeding should be recognized as a matter of comity). The court denied Husband’s motion to dismiss, and he appealed. The Wife argued, on appeal, that the Husband cannot appeal an interlocutory order. The Husband argued that he can and should, particularly given that, without a resolution of the appeal, two simultaneous divorce suits could proceed with potentially conflicting outcomes. He also argued the collateral order doctrine applied (his motion to dismiss conclusively determined the disputed question, resolved an important issue, was separate from the merits, and is effectively unreviewable if the appeal had to await a final judgment). To further add to the Wife’s argument, on November 7, 2022, the Nigerian court dismissed the Husband’s petition for divorce saying that the Husband’s domicile was Maryland, not Nigeria. He is appealing that ruling. This effectively counters Husband’s argument of prong 4 of the collateral order doctrine.
While the court did reference the issue of comity, and the deference typically given to a first filed suit in another country, there were flaws with Husband’s filing. Even if the lawsuit in Nigeria was still proceeding (which it is not), it was not properly served, did not afford the Wife due process, and the Nigerian court previously set aside the Husband’s substituted service. Husband’s appeal is dismissed.