An interesting trial court opinion I just ran across, though it was decided in May 2006. [UPDATE: Link fixed.] It doesn't break any new legal ground, but it does provide an interesting perspective, I think, on a particular kind of problem, and how some courts approach it. From the facts:
1. Plaintiff is C__ C. Al-R__, an adult citizen of Pennsylvania and the United States of America, residing in Millville, Columbia County, Pennsylvania.
2. Defendant is F__ S. Al-R__, an adult citizen of Saudi Arabia residing in Tabouk, Saudi Arabia.
3. The parties met while they were students at the University of Scranton in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Plaintiff graduated from the University of Scranton with a Bachelor of Science degree in May of 2000 and received a Master of Science in School Counseling degree in May 2003.
4. The parties were married on August 28, 2001, in Honesdale, Wayne County, Pennsylvania, in an Islamic ceremony. She had converted to Islam by accepting the five basic precepts of the Islamic religion prior to the marriage. She never converted to "cultural" Islam as it is observed in Saudi Arabia.
5. While living in Pennsylvania, plaintiff became pregnant with the parties' child. Defendant wanted to move to Saudi Arabia to live and raise the child. Plaintiff was reluctant but agreed to relocate on a trial basis. She did some superficial research on what life would be like for her and her family in Saudi Arabia. Defendant did not fully disclose to her what life was like for women in Saudi Arabian culture, although he fully knew or should have fully known the difference since he had lived in both cultures for significant periods of time. Plaintiff had never lived in the Saudi culture.
6. Defendant knew that plaintiff was a strong-willed woman who would have a difficult time adapting to a controlling Saudi male dominated culture....
8. While in Syria [on the way to Saudi Arabia] and after moving to Saudi Arabia, plaintiff found that life for women, and for her specifically, was brutal, something that defendant apparently did not disclose. Plaintiff attempted in good faith to adhere to the cultural dress codes and the mores of Saudi society. However, she was not prepared for the abusive treatment, physically and psychologically, inflicted upon women in that society.
9. Specifically, defendant repeatedly abused plaintiff in many ways for over a year.... [Details available in the full opinion. -EV]
12. Any employment which she could secure in Saudi Arabia had to be arranged by defendant, who became extremely controlling....
13. In accord with Saudi custom, a divorce will occur if the husband says "I divorce you" three times. While they were in Saudi Arabia, he said it two times. If it had happened a third time, plaintiff would have had no one to help her since she could not talk to men outside of the family and women were powerless to help. Thus, she would have had to go to the U.S. Embassy and return to the United States without her daughter.
14. In the spring of 2005 she began to feel depressed and isolated. She saw a counselor. The only advice she received was to pray and to be more accommodating to her husband.
15. In August of 2005, plaintiff persuaded defendant to permit her and the minor child to visit her family in Pennsylvania. Defendant bought round-trip tickets for plaintiff and the child. Before they left Saudi Arabia, defendant made plaintiff write down the names of her family members. He told her that if she did not return, he had connections in the United States and he would harm her and her family. He also stated that he would rather see their daughter "dead" than raised in the United States. He told the minor child, "May God help you if you become a prostitute and a bitch like your mother."
16. Plaintiff visited Pennsylvania with Sarah. However, she failed to get on the plane and return to Saudi Arabia as scheduled on August 28 or 29, 2005. She had called defendant and said she was not returning, using the excuse that a relative was ill. She also told defendant that she was fearful of returning. However, she simply decided that she could not live in Saudi Arabia. She did not want her and her daughter to be forever subjected to the abuse she had experienced.
17. Before she left, she expressed her love for defendant. After she failed to return, she continued to express her love for defendant. However, said expressions of love were for the man she knew in the United States, not for the man she lived with in Saudi Arabia. Her expressions of love were based in fear and were not genuine. She was afraid that if her true feelings of fear were expressed, not only would she not have been allowed to leave Saudi Arabia, but she would have been in danger in the United States.
18. When plaintiff did not return to Saudi Arabia in August 2005, defendant knew or should have known that she would not return. He had lived in the United States long enough to be aware of the cultural differences. He knew or should have known that the abuses that he heaped upon plaintiff in Saudi Arabia would not be accepted by such a strong and educated American woman as his wife. He knew or should have known that he had deceived her by not fully explaining the control and abuse that she would have to endure in Saudi Arabia. He threatened her and her family with harm if she did not return. He knew that when she did not return that she would never return to his extreme abuse and viciousness.
19. Plaintiff established a residence in the United States and in Pennsylvania by the end of August 2005. She purchased a car in August 2005. She rented an apartment for herself and her daughter in August 2005. She secured a job in Pennsylvania in August 2005....
20. Plaintiff and defendant communicated by e-mail through December 2005, when all communication ended.
21. Plaintiff filed the complaint in divorce and custody on March 8, 2006.
22. On March 8, 2006, Pennsylvania had been the home state of plaintiff and Sarah for at least six months....
As I understand it, the purely legal issue is whether the wife lived with the daughter in Pennsylvania starting August 31, or was simply visiting there, for at least a couple of weeks. But the answer, according to the court, seems to turn quite substantially on the nature of the problems that the wife was facing in Saudi Arabia, and on the husband's responsibility for the problems — apparently since that bears on the legally significant question of whether the mother intended to establish residency in Pennsylvania, and perhaps whether the father should have recognized that intent. (Note the finding that "When plaintiff did not return to Saudi Arabia in August 2005, defendant knew or should have known that she would not return.")
Likewise, the court's conclusion that the plaintiff didn't engage in "unjustifiable conduct" (which would have statutorily stripped the court of jurisdiction) seems influenced by the situation the wife faced in Saudi Arabia, and the husband's possible responsibility for that situation. In any case, you can read the whole opinion for more on this.