Kapigian v. Der Minassian

The Court recognized a divorce granted in a foreign country where both the husband and his first wife were domiciled.

Kapigian v. Der Minassian, 212 Mass. 412; 99 N.E. 264 (Mass. 1912). Court: Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Worcester

Husband and Wife were married in the U.S. The Husband, a Christian domiciled in Turkey, had previously married in Turkey. The Husband’s first wife, a Christian at the time of their marriage, had become a Muslim and married a Muslim man. Under Turkish law, when a wife renounced Christianity, because a Muslim, and married a Muslim man, her previous marriage became void. The Wife brought a suit against Husband asking that their marriage be declared null and void because the Husband was not divorced from his first wife.

The court dismissed the Wife’s claim and held that the Husband’s divorce from his first wife was valid. Citing principles of international law regarding domicile, the court stated that because the Husband and his first wife were domiciled in Turkey, Turkish law should govern the validity of their marriage. Turkish law was clear that the marriage is dissolved. And since such law was not contrary to the “moral sense of civilized nations,” the court should recognize the first marriage as being dissolved. The second marriage was valid because the Husband was divorced at the time he married the Wife.

Note: This ruling was distinguished in 2nd Circuit, New York case, Shikoh v. Murff, 257 F.2d 306 at 309, In that case, the court did not recognize the divorce obtained in accordance with Pakistani law, because the divorce was obtained in the territory of New York.

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