Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Recognition of an Egyptian Khul’a divorce in Greece

Recognition of divorces from Arab countries is not exactly a daily routine for Greek judges. In this case the court examined an application for the recognition of a divorce through an agreement of the spouses, known as Khul’a, certified by an Egyptian notary public.

Thessaloniki First Instance Court 12223/2014, unreported


The applicant is living in the Thessaloniki district. She concluded a civil wedding with an Egyptian national at the Ministry of Interior in Cairo on October 2011. This marriage was declared as dissolved by virtue of a divorce certificate issued under the rule of Khul’a. In particular, the applicant produced to the Greek court a deed issued by a notary public in Cairo. She applied for the recognition of the above deed.


The court granted the application. It applied domestic rules, i.e. Articles 323 & 905 Code of Civil Procedure. The court stated that the dissolution of marriage is in accordance with the laws of Egypt, which is the law applicable in the case at hand, pursuant to Greek conflict of laws rules (Articles 16 & 14 Civil Code): The last common residence of the spouses before initiating divorce proceedings was Cairo, Egypt. Further on, the features of the notary deed (marriage dissolution certificate) resemble to a form of divorce in mutual consent. Therefore it does not contravene Greek public policy, given that the domestic legal order recognizes divorce in mutual consent (Article 1441 Civil Code). The rights of defense have been respected: both spouses declared their consent to dissolve the marriage before the notary, which leads to a final and conclusive act. Finally, no contrary decision was rendered and no application was pending in Greece.
For all the reasons above, the application was granted.


First of all, the court was right in applying domestic law: Unlike Egypt, Greece is not a signatory to the 1970 Hague Convention on the recognition of Divorces and Legal Separations. In addition, no bilateral convention exists between the two countries.

Digging in case law reports and pertinent data bases I discovered the existence of a sole similar decision in the past: Some 20 years ago, the Athens CoA dismissed the application for the recognition of a Sudanese Religious Court, by virtue of which divorce was rendered on the grounds of talaq (declaration in the presence of two witnesses). The appellate court found that:
·         This form of divorce is profoundly contrary to the Greek public order.
·         It was totally irrelevant for the CoA that the pending application was filed by the appellant, i.e. the divorced wife, although it acknowledged that the application was initiated quite probably for a legitimate cause.
·         Finally, the Athens court ruled that the Sudanese decision was to be additionally dismissed, because no evidence was produced as to its finality.

Coming back to the Thessaloniki ruling, it is evident that the court surpassed all of the above grounds for refusal.
·         The public policy barrier was exceeded by reference to the consensual nature of divorce.
·         The fact that the application was filed by the wife was underlined by the court.
·         The finality was confirmed through evidence furnished by the applicant, which convinced the court that by issuing the notary’s certificate the issue is not subject to any appeal.

There’s only one difference as to the facts of the cases above: Whereas the Athens CoA was confronted with a straightforward talaq case, i.e. a divorce initiated by the husband, the Thessaloniki court had to decide on a khul’a case. Being not exactly the most knowledgeable person on the matter, I searched on the WWW, and found out that the difference is the following: “The situation in which the wife initiates divorce proceedings is known as Khul’a. Once the husband agrees to divorce her in exchange for some money or the remission of her dower, the divorce is known as Talaq. It is as valid as the Talaq given by the man of his own initiative. Khul’a depends upon the agreement reached between the two parties… Once the husband agrees to Khul’a, he is asked to pronounce TALAQ in exchange for the above mentioned” [].

I’m confident that this decision will meet the approval of legal scholarship in Greece, which criticized the Athens CoA ruling as being not sufficiently flexible in cases where the application for recognition is filed by the wife. It remains to be seen whether this tendency will be followed in the future. Last but not least, I remind you of a similar judgment, once again by a Thessaloniki court, for which I have reported nearly two years ago [recognition of a rabbinical divorce, see].