This case, Aleem v. Aleem, 947 A. 2d 489 (Md. 2008), presents the interesting question of whether a diplomat's Islamic divorce at the Pakistani Embassy took jurisdiction away from the Maryland courts for his wife's divorce action.
In 1980 in Pakistan, the parties married under Islamic law. She had just graduated high school and he was pursuing a doctorate at Oxford. The marriage was sealed with a dower. Under Pakistani law, unless otherwise stated (which it was not), each party retains the property to which the party holds title.
After a brief stint together in jolly old England, the couple moved to Maryland on diplomatic visas and the husband worked for the World Bank. Twenty years and two children later, she filed for divorce and he performed talaq, a husband's unilateral right to divorce under Islamic law, at the Pakistani Embassy. On appeal, he claimed that, based on comity, his talaq took jurisdiction away from the Maryland courts.
The Maryland Court of Appeals began its analysis by citing no less than 11 paragraphs from Hilton v. Guyot, 159 U.S. 113, 16 S.Ct. 139, 40 L.Ed. 95 (1895) to clear up comity's scope. The court pointed out that full faith and credit only applies among the states. The court then went through older Maryland cases, from 1817 - 1898, to sketch out the borders of comity and marital property issues on divorce. Then, the court cited Telnikoff v. Matusevitch, 347 Md. 561, 702 A.2d 230 (1997), "perhaps the most modern and seminal of our cases on comity between Maryland and foreign countries," regarding comity in Maryland. Over and over, the court emphasized that it did not have to recognize any foreign laws contrary to the public policy of the present forum.
Based on the Equal Rights Amendment to the Maryland Constitution, talaq was against public policy because only husbands can use this handy-dandy instant divorce tool. The court also decided that talaq denies soon-to-be-ex-wives of any due process--contrary to the public policy in the Blue Crab State. Thus, the court refused to recognize talaq, and the husband could not rely on the favorable marital property laws in Pakistan.