Shikoh v. Murff

The court held invalid a divorce obtained in an Islamic ceremony in New York.

Shikoh v. Murff, 257 F.2d 306 (2d Cir. 1958) Court: U.S. Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit

The court held invalid a divorce obtained in an Islamic ceremony in New York. In order for a divorce to be valid, it must be valid in the jurisdiction in which it took place.

Husband and Wife, of Indian descent, were married in Pakistan. Husband came to a non-immigrant. Wife remained in Pakistan. After 11 years in the U.S., Husband went to a “Reverend Sheikh” in New York and expressed intent to divorce his wife. Husband, two witnesses, and the Reverend Sheikh signed a certificate, and the Husband was given a divorce in an Islamic ceremony. Later on, Husband married a U.S. Citizen and sought to adjust his status to a permanent resident. Immigration officials denied his request on the basis that his divorce was invalid. After several appeals by the Husband, the case arrived in this court.

The court here affirmed the lower courts’ decisions and found that the Husband’s divorce was invalid. The court stated that non-judicial divorces have been recognized when they were performed within jurisdictions which allowed them. In this case, while the divorce may have been valid in Pakistan, it was not valid in New York where the Husband performed the acts to receive the divorce in a religious ceremony. Divorces must be “in accordance with the laws” of the jurisdiction in which it was obtained.

Note: Cited in New Jersey case, Chaudry v. Chaudry, 388 A.2d 1000 (N.J. Super. Ct. 1978), where the trial judge declared invalid a divorce obtained at the Pakistan consulate in New Jersey.

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