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Covid-19 Pandemic Impact On Divorce Cases

The Covid-19 pandemic is disrupting lives throughout the world, and the legal system is no exception. And, in particular, family law proceedings are being affected by this scourge. New York has a pandemic-related moratorium on divorces since March 22 (Addendum – New York ended its divorce suspension on May 20, and Mary-Kate Olsen was literally the first in line seeking a divorce).

Just a few weeks ago, Russia’s Justice Ministry directed regional authorities to suspend marriages and divorces in response to the coronavirus pandemic until at least June 1. At the time, no other country was reported as considering the idea of banning marriages, divorces, or both as a response to Covid-19. Dubai changed that last month.

Divorces Suspended Until Further Notice Thanks to Covid-19

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According to reporting from Al Jazeera, earlier this month Dubai followed Russian’s lead and has banned all marriages and divorces as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Dubai took that ban one step further though and suspended not just divorces and marriages, but has suspended all legal services related to family law matters based on Islamic jurisprudence (also known as Sharia Law) for the time being. That probably means that Talaq divorces will also be on hold as well. (Contrast that to Colorado, where courts have limited in-person hearings to essential proceedings, but cases are proceeding telephonically or via video conferencing).

It is unclear if Dubai anticipates lifting the suspension any time soon. Considering the stringent steps Dubai is taking to combat the spread of Covid-19 (including fines for not wearing face masks at all times and closing border crossings), it seems unlikely that the suspension will be lifted any time soon.

Instant “Talaq” Divorce During Pandemic?

Talaq Divorce, also colloquially as instant divorce, is a divorce process permitted under Islamic law that allows a husband to divorce his wife by simply announcing that he has divorced. The word Talaq, which is the arabic word for divorce, must be repeated three times in order to affect the divorce normally.

Around the world, many Islamic and secular countries have mixed views on talaq divorce. India, home to more than 100 million Muslims formally banned triple Talaq in 2019, two years after the highest court in India deemed the process unconstitutional. Nineteen other countries have either banned Talaq or allow for Talaq but have strict statutory limits and requirements on the process. Many countries, including India, United Arab Emirates, and Bangladesh have penalties under the law for improper use of Talaq divorce by Muslims. See our blog post Divorce by Text? Not in Colorado for a brief contrast of the Talaq with Colorado family law procedures.

Although the United Arab Emirates (which Dubai is a member of) allows for Talaq divorce, Article 106 Personal Status Law (of UAE Federal Law) still requires that the divorce be recorded by a judge following the declaration to be recognized. Requiring a judge to record the divorce likely means that Talaq divorces will still be on hold during the pandemic.

Legal Recognition of Talaq Divorce

Around the world Muslim men and women have attempted to divorce their spouses under Sharia law as set by their country of origin rather than the laws of the country they reside in with mixed results.

Since 2004, France has not recognized Talaq divorce as it is contrary to French public policy and infringes on the principle of equality between spouses in divorce. The European Court of Justice (EJC), the top court in the European Union, has also said that the Talaq divorce cannot be validated under EU law. In 2006, the Supreme Court of New Hampshire refused to recognize a Talaq divorce despite the principle of comity as it violated the strong public policy of the state.

In the United States, matters of marriage and divorce are regulated by individual states and not the federal government. There are no treaties between the United States and any other country that mandates the recognition of foreign divorce decrees (of any kind, not just Talaq or Islamic divorces) so it is done on a state-by-state, case-by-case basis under the principle of comity.

In Colorado, you can file to have a foreign decree registered and recognized by Colorado under C.R.S. 14-11-101. Before a court will register a foreign decree, the court must first be satisfied with the due process rights afforded to the other spouse before an order is enforceable or modifiable. Whether or not a Colorado court will recognize a foreign Talaq divorce will be entirely situational and depend on the exact process used for the divorce.

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