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CA4 on Comity: Adjei v. Mayorkas

February 08, 2023 (1 min read)

Adjei v. Mayorkas

"We consider here whether the Commonwealth of Virginia would recognize a divorce granted by a foreign nation to its own citizens when neither spouse was domiciled in that nation at the time of the divorce. The question arises from Michael Antwi Adjei’s marriage to Barbara Boateng after Boateng and Kingsley Kwame Gyasi — both Ghanaian citizens — divorced pursuant to Ghanaian customary law. At the time of the divorce, Boateng and Gyasi were lawful permanent residents of the United States and neither was present or domiciled in Ghana. Based on his marriage to Boateng, Adjei became a lawful permanent resident of the United States. But when Adjei applied to become a naturalized citizen, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determined that he and Boateng were not validly married. USCIS reasoned that under controlling Virginia law, the Commonwealth would not recognize a divorce granted by a nation where neither spouse was domiciled at the time of the divorce. Adjei sought review of the decision in the district court, which granted summary judgment to USCIS. Adjei then brought this appeal. We conclude that, as a matter of comity, Virginia would recognize this otherwise valid divorce, granted by a foreign nation to its own citizens, regardless of the citizens’ domicile at the time. We therefore reverse and remand with instructions to grant Adjei’s naturalization application."

[Hats off to Ann Buwalda and Jason West!]