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Although Louisiana law expressly prohibits the marriages of first cousins, such marriages are not so odious as to violate a strong public policy of this state. Accordingly, a marriage between first cousins, if valid in the state or country where it was contracted, will be recognized as valid pursuant to La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 3520.
Plaintiff, Tahereh Ghassemi, filed suit in the East Baton Rouge Parish Family Court (family court) seeking a divorce, spousal support, and a partition of community property. In her petition, she alleged that she and the defendant, Hamed Ghassemi, were married in Barn, Iran in 1976, at which time both parties were citizens of Iran. They were first cousins. The family court declined to consider Iranian law or Iranian documents and ruled that the marriage was invalid.
Did the family court err in declining to recognize the marriage?
The court determined that the marriage was not prohibited by Civ. Code art. 1045 (Iran). Thus, the applicable conflict of laws provision was La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 3520, which addressed the validity of marriages that were valid where they were contracted, rather than La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 3519. Because the parties' marriage certificate could have been authenticated pursuant to La. Code Evid. Ann. art. 902(3), the family court erred in declining to recognize it. The marriage did not violate a strong public policy of Louisiana and thus had to be presumed valid. Although Louisiana prohibited first cousin marriages under La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 90 and deemed such marriages absolutely null under La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 94 when contracted in Louisiana, the court stated that first cousin marriages were not considered odious. The award of attorney fees was permissible pursuant to La. Code Civ. Proc. Ann. art. 1469(4), and the other interlocutory judgments were reasonable given the procedural posture of the case.