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Do You Need a Religious Divorce?

Most of the divorcing couples who come to me for assistance have had a religious marriage ceremony. These couples sometimes have a question along the lines of one posed to me recently by an immigration attorney on behalf of his client: My client was married in civil proceedings and in a religious Muslim ceremony in the US. He has a civil divorce decree. Does he need another type of divorce decree for the religious marriage?

Here is the answer: If you have a valid civil divorce judgment, you are legally divorced. The issue on the religious side is a question that goes to religious custom rather than to civil legality. For example, some Jewish clients want to take steps involving a "get" -- a formal religious document divorcing the couple under Jewish law. If they want to obtain a "get," they take the necessary steps on their own, through their synagogue, though they may include language in their Separation Agreement agreeing to do so.

In the Muslim religion, as in any religion, there may be a proceeding or document that gives religious recognition to the divorce. For a Muslim couple wondering what steps to take for a religious divorce, the question should be addressed to an imam rather than a civil attorney. There is no necessity for a "religious divorce" from the legal perspective. But an observant Muslim may want to look into the issue and satisfy any religious requirements.

A separate question is whether a civil divorce judgment obtained in the United States will be recognized in a court in a Muslim country, or whether a divorce judgment obtained in a court in a Muslim country will be recognized in a court in the United States. Depending on the extent of the differences between standards applied by the respective jurisdictions, the courts of one nation might refuse to give recognition ("comity") to the judgment of the foreign court.

Copyright 2011 Marion Lee Wasserman. All rights reserved.

The above article is provided for general informational purposes. It is not intended to apply to any specific facts or circumstances and should not be construed or applied as legal advice or legal opinion or as tax advice or as establishing an attorney-client relationship.

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