Monday, April 20, 2009

NY Court Says Muslim Marriage Is Valid, Even Though Not Recognized In NJ

New York law recognizes a marriage celebrated in a religious ceremony as valid even if the parties do not obtain the required marriage license. (NY Dom. Rel. Law § 25). New Jersey, on the other hand, does not recognize a religious marriage as valid if the parties failed to obtain a marriage license. (N.J. Stat. § 37:1-10). In Matter of Farraj, (NY Sup. Ct., April 14, 2009), a New York trial court held that New York law would be applied to render a Muslim marriage performed in New Jersey valid, even though the parties did not obtain a marriage license. The ceremony was held in New Jersey only because Islamic law requires that the marriage take place at the home of the bride's eldest male relative-- here her brother. The groom and the officiating imam both traveled from New York for the ceremony. The couple went back to New York for the wedding reception and lived in New York from that time until the husband's death over four years later. The court relied on Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws Section 283 to hold that the law of the state with the most significant relationship to the parties and the marriage should govern to validate the marriage.

The court went on to rule that since the marriage was valid, petitioner, Rabaa M. Hanash, has standing as a surviving spouse to petition the court for an accounting of her deceased husband's estate. One of the deceased husband's adult children from a former marriage had contested Hanash's right to demand an accounting, arguing that she was never lawfully married to Daoud Farraj .