Monday, March 21, 2016

New York Appellate Division Accords Recognition and Enforcement of United Arab Emirates Divorce, Mahr, and Custody Judgment


By
Professor Gabriel Sawma

This author submitted an affidavit to the New York Supreme Court in Westchester County in support of recognition and enforcement of a divorce decree obtained from Abu Dhabi, an emirate in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The divorce was granted to the wife, and included mahr and custody of the children, http://law.justia.com/cases/new-york/other-courts/2012/2012-ny-slip-op-51875-u.html

The Supreme Court cited our affidavit in the following terms: “She (the wife) submits an affidavit from Gabriel Sawma, an expert consultant on Islamic divorce in the United States and Middle East Laws, including the legal structure of the courts of the UAE, which include the emirate of Abu Dhabi. Professor Sawma is fluent in Arabic and English and he reviewed both the Arabic and English translations of the certified orders, judgments, and decrees rendered by the Abu Dhabi courts in the criminal, divorce, and custody proceedings between the parties. In his affidavit, Professor Sawma explains the structure of the judiciary in the UAE, the legal proceedings between the parties and the judgments and decrees rendered by the Abu Dhabi courts.”.

I would like to note here that the Supreme Court of the State of New York is the trial-level court. Appeals from Supreme Court decisions, are heard by the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court. The Appellate Division is intermediate between the New York Supreme Court and the New York Court of Appeals. Unlike in most other states, the Supreme Court in New York is a trial court and is not the highest court in the state. The highest court of the State of New York is the Court of Appeals.

Summary of the Case
In 1998, S.B., a U.S. citizen professional woman (wife), married W.A. (husband), an immigrant from Egypt who later became an architect.  They both had Islamic and civil marriage in New York, and both lived in New York State until 2006, where two children of the marriage were born. They then moved to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, where W.A. got a job.

In 2009, S.B. filed a suit in Abu Dhabi, accusing W.A. of attacking her, inflicting “severe bruises and a fractured skull.” Consequently, W.A. was convicted of assault on the grounds (according to the UAE court) that he had crossed his legal limits to discipline his wife. The husband never denied using physical force against his wife, but defended the charges claiming he had the right to use physical means to discipline his wife and that “her injuries were not as severe as she claimed.”

The Abu Dhabi Court of the First Instance granted divorce to S.B, and awarded her the $250,000 mahr, which, according to Islamic law, represents an amount of money that the husband promise to pay his wife in the event of divorce. The court also ordered W.A. to pay child support and some amount of spousal support, and gave the wife custody of the children.

Both parties had the opportunity to participate in the litigation in Abu Dhabi, and each party was represented by legal counsel. This was not just a case where husband and wife are living in the United States, and the husband goes back to his country in the Middle East to get a divorce without the wife’s participation.

W.A. appealed the first judgment to the Court of Appeal in Abu Dhabi, which rendered a decision on April 4, 2010, and the Court of Cassation, which rendered a decision on November 8, 2010. Both courts affirmed the judgment of the Court of First Instance, “except that the Udda Alimony.

Following the final judgment of the Court of Cassation, the husband fled Abu Dhabi and returned back to New York and brought with him the children’s passports without the knowledge of the wife. The wife had a banking job in the UAE, and wanted to abide by the terms of her three-year contract. At a later time, S.B. and her children returned back to New York.

Recognition of Divorce Judgment Pursuant to the Doctrine of Comity
S.B. filed a suit seeking recognition and enforcement of the Abu Dhabi divorce decree in New York. The Supreme Court of Westchester County in New York recognized the UAE.

The Supreme Court stated that “The general principle of law is that a divorce obtained in a foreign jurisdiction by residents of this State, in accordance with the laws thereof, is entitled to recognition under the principle of comity unless the decree offends the public policy of the State of New York”, … “Although not required to do so, the courts of this State generally will accord recognition to the judgments rendered in foreign country under the doctrine of comity which is the equivalent of full faith and credit given by the courts to judgments of our sister States”, … “Loosely, [comity] means courtesy, respect, or mutual accommodation; practically, it means that each sovereign, including the State of New York, can decide for itself which foreign country judgments it will recognize and which it won’t.”

The Court added: “A court has the inherent power pursuant to the principles of comity to recognize and enforce a foreign judgment of divorce unless there is some defect of jurisdiction shown to be against the public policy of the domestic state, ... A party who has properly appeared in a foreign action is ordinarily precluded from attacking the resulting judgment by bringing a collateral New York proceeding… Only where there has been a showing that the foreign judgment was fraudulently obtained … or that recognition of the judgment would conflict seriously with a compelling public policy… can a collateral attack be entertained… Absent some showing a fraud in the procurement of the foreign country judgment... or that recognition of the judgment would do violence to some strong public policy of this State … a party who properly appeared in the action is precluded from attacking the validity of the foreign country judgment in a collateral proceeding brought in the courts of this State.”

The Court Rejected the Claim That Abu Dhabi Court Judgment is based upon the Religious Marriage Contract
In this case, W.A. “claims that the Abu Dhabi entered a divorce judgment based upon the religious marriage and declined to recognize and litigate the civil marriage, thereby violating the public Policy of this state. However, this claim is belied by the multiple orders, judgments, and decrees annexed to plaintiff’s moving papers, which establish that the divorce action was brought in the Abu Dhabi civil court system and under the Personal Status Law of 2005. Moreover, Article 5 of the Personal Status Law established that the divorce action was litigated in a civilian state court, not a Sharia religious court, by stating: “[t]he State courts shall have jurisdiction on Personal Status litigations in which citizens, or aliens, having domicile or residence or place of business in the State, are defendant.” (See also Affidavit of Professor Gabriel Sawma, dated May 11, 2012, at page 3, and the exhibits annexed thereto).

The Mahr Agreement is Enforceable Pursuant to the Doctrine of Neutral Principles of Law
The Supreme Court of Westchester County viewed the decree ordering the payment of the $250,000 mahr enforceable. The Court said: “There can be little doubt that a duly executed antenuptial agreement, by which the parties agree in advance of the marriage to the resolution of disputes that may arise after its termination, is valid and enforceable.”

The Supreme Court added: “So too many agreements predicate upon religious doctrine and customs be enforced in civil courts, as long as enforcement does not violate either the law of the public policy of the state. While “the First Amendment severely circumscribes the role that civil courts may play in resolving [religious] disputes,” a State may adopt any approach to settling these disputes, “so long as it involves no consideration of doctrinal matters, whether the ritual and liturgy of worship or the tents of faith”, ... Use of the “neutral principles of law” approach, which “contemplates the application of objective, well-established principles of secular law to the dispute,” has been found to be “consistent with constitutional limitations.” This approach permits “judicial involvement to the extent that it can be accomplished in purely secular terms.”

“The neutral principles method requires a civil court to “take special care to scrutinize the [religious] document in purely secular terms, and not to rely on religious precepts”. If interpretation of the document “requires the civil court to resolve a religious controversy, … resolution of the doctrinal issue” must be deferred to the “authoritative ecclesiastical body.”

A “Mahr Agreement is not void simply because it was entered into during an Islamic ceremony of marriage. Rather, enforcement of the secular parts of a written agreement is consistent with the constitutional mandate for a free exercise of religious beliefs, no matter how diverse they may be.” Since a Mahr agreement may be enforced according to neutral principles of aw, it will survive any constitutional challenge and enforceable as a contractual obligation.

The Custody Order from Abu Dhabi is recognized in the State of New York
The Supreme Court of Westchester County stated that “The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) applies nationally and internationally and is designed to promote uniformity throughout the world in custody determinations, … The UCCJEA is mandatory and provides that “a child custody determination made in a foreign country under factual circumstances in substantial conformity with the jurisdictional standards of this article must be recognized and enforced.” Except where “the child custody law of a foreign country as written or as applied violates fundamental principles of human rights”.

The Domestic Relations statutes mandates that “any foreign nation must be treated as if it were a state within the United States for purposes of jurisdiction and inter-court cooperative mechanism. The UCCJEA is not a reciprocal act. There is no requirement that the foreign country enact a UCCJEA equivalent, … The statute “is designed to eliminate jurisdictional competition between courts in matter of child custody, with jurisdictional priority conferred to a child’s home state . . .”

When there is no violation to fundamental principles of human rights in the custody law of the foreign country, or that the foreign courts are without jurisdiction to determine custody, the U.S. court, based upon the principles of comity and pursuant to domestic law, must recognize and enforce the custody determination of a foreign court awarding custody. This is attested by the Supreme Court’s decision of Westchester County which reads: “Neither party alleges that any of the child custody laws of the UAE violate fundamental principles of human rights or that the Abu Dhabi courts were without jurisdiction to determine custody. Nor does this Court find any such violation or lack of jurisdiction. Therefore, based upon the principles of comity and pursuant to Domestic Relations Law 75-d, this Court must recognize and enforce the custody determination of the Abu Dhabi courts awarding plaintiff custody.”

The Appellate Division Affirms the Judgment of the Supreme Court
On January 20, 2016, the Appellate Division: Second Judicial Department of the Supreme Court of the State of New York affirmed the judgment of the lower court,  http://www.courts.state.ny.us/courts/ad2/calendar/webcal/decisions/2016/D47647.pdf

The High Court refers to our affidavit as follows: “According to the affidavit of a Fairleigh Dickinson University professor submitted by the plaintiff in support of her motion, the parties’ mahr agreement is a marriage agreement in accordance with Islamic law wherein the defendant pledged to pay the plaintiff a “deferred dowry” in the event of a divorce. While the parties were living in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, the plaintiff sought and obtained a judgment of divorce against the defendant in the Abu Dhabi courts. The judgment of divorce awarded the plaintiff custody of the parties’ children and financial relief, including an award of $250,000 pursuant to the mahr agreement.” The Court added:

Although not required to do so, the courts of this State generally will accord recognition to the judgments rendered in a foreign country under the doctrine of comity which is the equivalent of full faith and credit given by the courts to judgments of our sister States”, . . . Comity should be extended to uphold the validity of a foreign divorce decree absent a showing of fraud in it procurement or that recognition of the judgment would do violence to a strong public policy of New York.”


DISCLAIMER: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

Gabriel Sawma is a lawyer with Middle East background, and a recognized authority on Islamic law of marriage, divorce and custody of children, Hindu marital disputes in U.S. courts, and Iran divorce in USA.
·        Professor of Middle East Constitutional and Islamic law,
·        Expert Consultant on Islamic divorce in US Courts and Canada,
·        Expert Consultant on Hindu divorce in U.S. courts,
·        Expert Consultant on Iranian Shi’a divorce in USA,
·        Expert Consultant on Islamic finance.
Admitted to the Lebanese Bar Association; Former Associate Member of the New York State Bar Association and the American Bar Association.
Prof. Sawma lectured at the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) in New York State and wrote many affidavits to immigration authorities, Federal Courts, and family State Courts in connection with recognition of Islamic foreign divorces in the U.S., Hindu divorces, and Iranian marital conflicts.
Taught Islamic Finance for MBA program at the University of Liverpool, United Kingdom.
Travelled extensively to: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Syria and Palestine.
Wrote many articles on Islamic and Hindu divorce in USA, custody of children in the Middle East and Central Asia; and on abduction of children to Muslim countries; 
Speaks, reads and writes several languages including Arabic, English, and French
Interviewed by:

Contact Information:


Tel. (609) 915-2237
For more information on our field of expertise, please visit our websites at the following links, where you will find most of our articles:

For more information on the author, please see Curriculum Vitae at this link:

Friday, March 18, 2016

Supreme Court of Westchester County Recognizes a Divorce Obtained from Abu Dhabi


As Expert Consultant on Islamic divorce obtained from the Middle East, Central Asia and other Islamic nations, this author has been privileged to have been able to defend, successfully, clients by submitting legal opinions and affidavits in their support on issues related  to Islamic divorce to State and Federal Courts and to Immigration Boards. Some of these cases have been reported by major U.S. law journals.

Following is a landmark case at New York Supreme Court of Westchester County, in which this author submitted an affidavit on behalf of a client. The honorable Court agreed with our argument and granted the client recognition of a divorce decree obtained in Abu Dhabi, including custody of children and a mahr of $250,000. You may read the judgment of the Supreme Court on the following link:

https://law.justia.com/cases/new-york/other-courts/2012/2012-ny-slip-op-51875-u.html

On January 20, 2016, the Appellate Division affirmed the judgment of the lower court and recognized the divorce decree obtained from Abu Dhabi, including the mahr agreement and custody of the children. The opinion of the Appellate Division reads:
Here, the mahr agreement, although not acknowledged in accordance with Domestic Relations Law § 236(B)(3), was signed by the parties and two witnesses, as well as the Imam of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York. Under the circumstances presented, the Supreme Court properly recognized so much of the foreign judgment of divorce as incorporated the mahr agreement under the principles of comity, as no strong public policy of New York was violated thereby (see Greschler v Greschler, 51 NY2d 368; Rabbani v Rabbani, 178 AD2d 637). Accordingly, the court properly granted that branch of the plaintiff’s motion which was to enforce so much of the judgment of divorce as awarded the plaintiff the sum of $250,000 pursuant to the mahr agreement.”
The Opinion is available at this link: 
As Expert Consultant, we offer the following services on:
  • International Law, including laws of the Middle East and Islamic Shari’a.
  • Abduction of children to Muslim majority countries, and fear of parental abduction.
  • Custody of children in Muslim majority countries.
  • Iranian divorce, custody, and mahriah in U.S. courts.
  • Abduction of children or fear of parental abduction to Iran.
  • Enforcement of mahr agreements in U.S. courts.
  • U.S. immigration cases dealing with Islamic divorces obtained overseas.
  • Islamic marriage, divorce, custody and abduction or fear of abduction to Muslim majority countries.


You may also read more on the treatment of the Islamic mahr agreements in US courts, by visiting our website at http://www.islamicdivorceinusa.com

American Women Marrying Saudi Men

By
Professor Gabriel Sawma

Students of Saudi Nationality come to the United States for study. Many of them marry American women with no experience in Saudi Arabia’s family law, and have no idea what they are getting into in marrying someone of a different culture. Quite often, the Saudi students convince these women to convert to Islam, and then have American Muslim children who must follow Islam. Some of the marriages are very strong and good, but the majority of them are not, and they fall apart under the impact of extreme and difficult shock of social and religious life of Saudi Arabia.

When the marriage breaks up, American women naturally want to take their children with them and leave Saudi Arabia, but they find out that they cannot get an exit visa without permission of the husband, even though they and their children are U.S. citizens. This author has worked in Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries, and handled many cases involving custody of children in the region.

The Religious Effect
Islamic religion dominates all aspects of life in Saudi Arabia. This includes government policy, cultural norms, and social behavior. Islam is the only official religion of that country, and public observance of any other religion is forbidden throughout the kingdom.

Women are prohibited from driving cars or riding bicycles on public roads, or in places where they might be observed. Women and men are not free to congregate together in most public places, and a man may be arrested for being seen with, walking with, or traveling with, or driving a woman other than his wife or sister, or mother, or daughter. Also are forbidden of playing music, or dancing in public, mixed swimming, public showing of movies, and consumption of alcohol.

Religious police, known as mutawwa, are empowered to enforce the strict conservative interpretation of Islamic codes of dress and behavior of women, and in many cases, they harass women who do not cover their heads or whose clothing is insufficiently concealing.

Saudi Arabia Does Not Recognize Dual Citizenship
Children of American women born of marriages with Saudi men lose their U.S citizenship while in Saudi Arabia. This is due to the fact that Saudi Arabia will not recognize dual citizenship. Saudi government considers the offspring to be solely Saudi citizens because they were born to a Saudi father. 

While in Saudi Arabia, Children born of Saudi men and American women will be considered Saudi citizens only.

An Exit Visa is Required to Depart Saudi Arabia
A U.S. citizen married to Saudi man should be aware of the fact that she must have permission from her husband to depart Saudi Arabia with the children. This is true even if the woman and her children are U.S. citizens and even if the husband is not a Saudi Citizen. 

The U.S. Embassy can intercede with the Saudi government to request exit visas for adult U.S. women, but there is no guarantee that visas will be issued. Obtaining an exit visa without the consent of the male guardian, takes many months, if it can be obtained at all. The U.S. Embassy cannot obtain exit visas for the departure of minor children without permission from the father.

American Women Who Marry Saudi Men May Lose Their Children After They Return to Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is not a signatory to The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, nor are there any international or bilateral treaties in force between the United States and Saudi Arabia dealing with international parental child abduction.

American women who travel to Saudi Arabia are subject to the jurisdiction of Saudi courts, as well as to Saudi laws and regulations. This hold true for all matters including custody. Parents planning to travel with their children to Saudi Arabia should bear in mind that the U.S. government cannot help an American woman whose children have been abducted by their father.

Saudi Arabia Does Not Recognize U.S. Court Custody Orders
American women marrying Saudi men should keep in mind that, in Saudi Arabia, custody decisions are based on Islamic law, and that Saudi Arabia is not party with the U.S. to any extradition, judicial assistance or child abduction treaties. 

Additionally, Saudi law does not recognize U.S. court orders, including child custody and divorce decrees, which are consequently unenforceable in Saudi Arabia. An American mother, whose husband has abducted the children to Saudi Arabia may not be granted an entry visa to the kingdom to see her children.

A child born anywhere in the world to a Saudi father is generally held to be a Saudi citizen, Muslim, and eligible for a Saudi passport. In many cases, the Saudi Embassy will grant passport to children born in the United States of an American wife and a Saudi husband.

American Woman May Find Her Husband is Married to Other Women at the Same Time
Like any other Muslim majority country, Saudi Arabia allows a Muslim husband to have up to four wives at one time as long as he can support them and treats each equally, while a woman may have one husband at a time.

Under Islamic law, a Muslim man is allowed to marry a Christian or Jew without having to change her religion. But a Muslim woman cannot marry non-Muslim man unless he converts to Islam.

Non-Muslim Women Marrying Muslim Men Cannot Inherit
Under Islamic law, which is the law in Saudi Arabia, a non-Muslim woman is not allowed to inherit from her husband. Daughters receive only half the amount of inheritance awarded to their brothers.

Testimony of Women in Courts is Equal Half of that of Men
Under the Islamic law of Saudi Arabia, the testimony of a woman does not carry the same weight as that of a man. The testimony of one man equals that of two women.


DISCLAIMER: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

Gabriel Sawma is a lawyer with Middle East background, and a recognized authority on Islamic law of marriage, divorce and custody of children, Hindu marital disputes in U.S. courts, and Iran divorce in USA.
·        Professor of Middle East Constitutional and Islamic law,
·        Expert Consultant on Islamic divorce in US Courts and Canada,
·        Expert Consultant on Hindu divorce in U.S. courts,
·        Expert Consultant on Iranian Shi’a divorce in USA,
·        Expert Consultant on Islamic finance.
Admitted to the Lebanese Bar Association; Associate Member of the New York State Bar Association and the American Bar Association.
Prof. Sawma lectured at the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) in New York State and wrote many affidavits to immigration authorities, Federal Courts, and family State Courts in connection with recognition of Islamic foreign divorces in the U.S., Hindu divorces, and Iranian marital conflicts.
Taught Islamic Finance for MBA program at the University of Liverpool, United Kingdom.
Travelled extensively to: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Syria and Palestine.
Wrote many articles on Islamic and Hindu divorce in USA, custody of children in the Middle East and Central Asia; and on abduction of children to Muslim countries; 
Speaks, reads and writes several languages including Arabic, English, French and others.
Interviewed by:

Contact Information:


Tel. (609) 915-2237

For more information on our field of expertise, please visit our websites at the following links, where you will find most of our articles:

For more information on the author, please see Curriculum Vitae at this link:

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


Supreme Court of Westchester County Recognizes a Divorce Obtained from Abu Dhabi


As Expert Consultant on Islamic divorce obtained from the Middle East, Central Asia and other Islamic nations, this author has been privileged to have been able to defend, successfully, clients by submitting legal opinions and affidavits in their support on issues related  to Islamic divorce to State and Federal Courts and to Immigration Boards. Some of these cases have been reported by major U.S. law journals.

Following is a landmark case at New York Supreme Court of Westchester County, in which this author submitted an affidavit on behalf of a client. The honorable Court agreed with our argument and granted the client recognition of a divorce decree obtained in Abu Dhabi, including custody of children and a mahr of $250,000. You may read the judgment of the Supreme Court on the following link:

https://law.justia.com/cases/new-york/other-courts/2012/2012-ny-slip-op-51875-u.html

On January 20, 2016, the Appellate Division affirmed the judgment of the lower court and recognized the divorce decree obtained from Abu Dhabi, including the mahr agreement and custody of the children. The opinion of the Appellate Division reads:
Here, the mahr agreement, although not acknowledged in accordance with Domestic Relations Law § 236(B)(3), was signed by the parties and two witnesses, as well as the Imam of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York. Under the circumstances presented, the Supreme Court properly recognized so much of the foreign judgment of divorce as incorporated the mahr agreement under the principles of comity, as no strong public policy of New York was violated thereby (see Greschler v Greschler, 51 NY2d 368; Rabbani v Rabbani, 178 AD2d 637). Accordingly, the court properly granted that branch of the plaintiff’s motion which was to enforce so much of the judgment of divorce as awarded the plaintiff the sum of $250,000 pursuant to the mahr agreement.”
The Opinion is available at this link: 
As Expert Consultant, we offer the following services on:
  • International Law, including laws of the Middle East and Islamic Shari’a.
  • Abduction of children to Muslim majority countries, and fear of parental abduction.
  • Custody of children in Muslim majority countries.
  • Iranian divorce, custody, and mahriah in U.S. courts.
  • Abduction of children or fear of parental abduction to Iran.
  • Enforcement of mahr agreements in U.S. courts.
  • U.S. immigration cases dealing with Islamic divorces obtained overseas.
  • Islamic marriage, divorce, custody and abduction or fear of abduction to Muslim majority countries.


You may also read more on the treatment of the Islamic mahr agreements in US courts, by visiting our website at http://www.islamicdivorceinusa.com

THE DRUZE DIVORCE IN USA


By
Prof. Gabriel Sawma

Introduction to the Druze Community in USA
A study of the Druze community in the United States can be understood within the context of the Druze people and their presence in the Middle East, mainly in Lebanon, Syria, and Israel. The faith is called Tawheed and takes its origin from Shi’a Islam under the guidance of the sixth Fatimid caliph Abu Ali Al-Mansur Al-Aziz Bi-Allah, popularly known as Al-Hakim Bi-Amr Allah. This caliph is considered by the adherents of the Druze faith a man with great wisdom and knowledge. (For in depth analysis of the Druze faith, refer to The Druze Faith by Sami Makarem, New York, Caravan Books, 1974).

Although there are Druze in Israel, Syria and Jordan, the majority are present in Lebanon, where they are recognized as a minority who possess a great political influence in that country. Their influence goes back to the Ottoman period.

Development of the the Druze Personal Status Law
During the Ottoman Empire, the Islamic family law (Personal Status Law), was applied to the Muslim communities according to the Hanafi School of Thought. (For more information on Muslim Family Law under the Ottoman Empire, see The View from Istanbul: Lebanon and the Druze Emirate n the Ottoman Chancery Documents 1541-1711 by Abdul-Rahim Abu-Husayni, New York, Center for Lebanese Studies in association with I.B. Tauris Publications, 2004)

The Ottoman family law remained in force in Lebanon until 1926 when the French government, which had a Mandate over Lebanon, decided to modify it in order to give separate legal status for the Shi’a community. In December of 1926, the French authority recognized the Druze of Lebanon as an independent sect. And, in 1948, the Druze Personal Status Law was enacted for the purpose of organizing the court system for the community. 

The final Personal Status Law (PSL) governing the Druze community was issued on March 5, 1960. The PSL governs all aspects of family law for the Druze community in Lebanon. However, when a case has no legal ruling in the PSL, the judge may apply the Hanafi code of the Sunni Muslims, taking into account the Druze traditions, customs and the principles of justice and equality. Before 1948, family cases such as marriage, divorce, custody of the children and inheritance, were settled in accordance with the prevailing Islamic law according to the Hanafi provisions taking into consideration the practices and customs of the Druze community. (For more on the Druze tradition, see Nizam al-Mowahedine Al-Dorouz Al-Ijtimaa’; fi sijil alahkam al mazhabiat lil qadi Ahmad Taqqi Al-Dine, 1866-1870 by Taqii Al-Dine, Slieman and Abou=Chakra, Dar Isharar lil Tiba’at Wa Al-Nashir Wa Al-Tawzee’, Beirut, 2006)

The Current Personal Status Law of the Druze in Lebanon
Divorce is defined as the termination of a marriage contract. According to Article 37 of the PSL, the judge of the Druze community has solely the authority to end the marriage. Once the divorce order is issued by the judge, the husband is not allowed to remarry his divorced wife. (Article 38). Divorced members of the Druze community wish to remarry may obtain a civil marriage outside the country or change their religion.

Contrary to the rules of Islamic divorce, a Druze man cannot divorce his wife unilaterally. Under the Islamic rules, a Muslim man can divorce his wife anytime and in any place by just uttering “I divorce you”, or “I divorce my wife”, or “my wife is divorced.” Such a rule is not acceptable in a Druze divorce according to Article 37. Once a divorce application is submitted to the court, the judge is required by law to appoint two adjudicators for reconciliation:

“In a dispute between husband and wife, the judge shall appoint two arbitrators from both families. If none of their relatives has the legal capacity to act as arbitrator, the judge shall appoint an outsider to conduct the reconciliation.”

If the judge finds the husband is at fault, he will order the husband to pay the wife, balance of the mahr. According to Article 49 of the PSL, the judge has authority to order compensation for injuries caused by the husband in addition to the mahr.

The wife may seek divorce without losing her right to mahr under conditions stated in Articles 39, 40, 41, 43, 44 and 45. The conditions include wife’s right to seek divorce if the husband suffers from incurable, contagious disease, or if the husband is mentally ill, or committed an act of adultery, was imprisoned for more than five years, was absent for three years with providing maintenance to his wife for five years. Under these circumstances the wife may seek divorce without losing her mahr. On the other hand, the husband may seek divorce if the wife is considered “nashez”, i.e., refuses to have sexual relation with her husband, or leaves the house without reasonable cause and does not return back. According to Article 42 of PSL, a Druze married couple may agree to divorce amicably in front of two witnesses without having to explain the cause of divorce to the judge.

Types of Divorce in the Druze Community
Divorce among members of the Druze community takes one of three forms: (1) divorce by agreement (talaq bi al taradi) of the married couples before the case is presented to the court, i.e., out-of-court settlement; (2) the divorce is contested before the court, but the couples decide to settle the case after court intervention; (3) when the parties to a divorce contested their case before a judge without reaching an agreement. In such cases, the judge would issue a judgment of divorce.

DISCLAIMER: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

Gabriel Sawma is a lawyer with Middle East background, and a recognized authority on Islamic law of marriage, divorce, custody of children and abduction of children to Muslim countries, Hindu marital disputes in U.S. courts, and Iran divorce in USA.
·       Professor of Middle East Constitutional and Islamic law,
·       Expert Consultant on Islamic divorce in US Courts and Canada,
·       Expert Consultant on Hindu divorce in U.S. courts,
·       Expert Consultant on Iranian Shi’a divorce in USA,
·       Expert Consultant on Islamic finance.
Admitted to the Lebanese Bar Association; Associate Member of the New York State Bar Association and the American Bar Association.
Prof. Sawma lectured at the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) in New York State and wrote many affidavits to immigration authorities and family State Courts in connection with recognition of Islamic foreign divorces in the U.S., Hindu divorces, and Iranian marital conflicts.
Taught Islamic Finance for MBA program at the University of Liverpool, United Kingdom.
Travelled extensively to: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Syria and Palestine.
Wrote many articles on Islamic and Hindu divorce in USA, custody of children in the Middle East and Central Asia; and abduction of children to Muslim countries; 
Speaks, reads and writes several languages including Arabic, English, French and other Semitic languages.
Interviewed by:

Contact Information:


Tel. (609) 915-2237

For more information on our field of expertise, please visit our websites at the following links, where you will find most of our articles:

For more information on the author, please see Curriculum Vitae at this link:
http://muslimdivorceinusa.com/professor-gabriel-sawma-curriculum-vitae/