Friday, October 02, 2020

No Fault Divorce Does Not Infringe Husband's Free Exercise Rights

 In Melki v. Melki,(MD App., Sept. 29, 2020), the Maryland Court of Special Appeals rejected a husband's claim that granting his wife a no-fault divorce violates his free exercise rights. In addition to rejecting jurisdictional and contract clause challenges, the court said in part:

Because the Orthodox faith does not permit divorces absent fault, Husband claims that the dissolution of the marriage on the grounds of a twelve-month separation would unconstitutionally force him to commit a mortal sin according to his religion.... Because a trial court granting a divorce merely dissolves a civil contract between the spouses, courts universally hold that no-fault divorce statutes do not infringe on the right to the free exercise of religion, even if a spouse’s religious beliefs prohibit no-fault divorces....

 Husband "still has [his] constitutional prerogative to believe that in the eyes of God, [he] and [his] estranged [wife] are ecclesiastically wedded as one...." ... In fact, it might well violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to compel Wife to remain married to Husband because of Husband’s religious beliefs, for the court would then be preferring one spouse’s beliefs over the other spouse’s.