This case law update focuses on the
Ashfaq v. Ashfaq case out of Houston’s 1st District Court of Appeals. The question involved whether a divorce previously
granted under the laws of Pakistan was effective to preclude a later-filed
divorce in Texas.
Husband and Wife were married in Pakistan and lived there a short while
until Husband returned to Texas. Wife remained in Pakistan for 2 years
before she was granted a visa and was able to join Husband in Texas. Less
than a year later, the couple returned to visit Pakistan and Husband had
Wife’s parents take her to their home. Husband announced his intention
to divorce her and returned to Texas. After the Pakistan divorce was final,
Wife moved to Houston. Husband remarried another woman from Pakistan.
A month after Husband’s second marriage, Wife filed for divorce
Trial proceeded on Wife’s divorce petition in Texas, where Husband
introduced evidence of Pakistani divorce laws through an expert witness
in Pakistani law. The expert testified that a resident of Pakistan may
obtain a divorce there, and a resident is anyone who maintains Pakistani
citizenship, regardless of where the resident currently lives. It was
undisputed that Wife was a Pakistani citizen and Husband had dual US and
Pakistani citizenship. To obtain a divorce under Pakistani law, the husband
must pronounce “talaq” (translated “I divorce you”)
three times, then provide notice to the Wife and the Chairman of the Union
Council. This provides the Wife opportunity to seek reconciliation and
if, after 90 days, the parties have not reconciled, they are divorced.
If the husband offers and the wife accepts return of her dowry, then the
Wife has indicated her acceptance of the divorce and cannot later deny
its validity. The expert testified that Husband followed the procedural
requirements and the divorce was proper. He also testified that Wife accepted
the return of her dowry.
The trial court determined that the Pakistani divorce was valid and dismissed
the divorce. The trial court treated the rest of Wife’s pleading
as a post-divorce petition to divide property and granted judgment. Wife
appealed, arguing that Texas had jurisdiction over the divorced and Pakistani
law should not have been recognized. The court of appeals noted that the
US federal government recognizes the Pakistani procedure as valid proof
of marital status for immigration purposes. Therefore, the judgment of
the trial court dismissing the divorce for failure of jurisdiction was
upheld. The court of appeals pointed out that Pakistani divorce procedures
have been recognized as valid proof of marital status for immigration
purposes, and in this case, the federal government must have recognized
this divorce because it issued Husband’s new wife a visa.
This is a good case to review when addressing an international divorce case.
Ashfaq v. Ashfaq, __ S.W.3d __, 2015 WL 1925832 (Tex. App. — Houston [1st Dist. 2015,
no pet. h.).