Tuesday, September 11, 2012

State Court Refuses To Enforce Mahr Agreement In Divorce Action

In Soleimani v. Soleimani, (KA Dist. Ct., Aug. 28, 2012), a divorce action, a Kansas state trial court refused to enforce a mahr agreement-- an Islamic premarital contract-- under which the wife claimed she was entitled her to $677,000 from her husband.  The court said in part:
The parties agreed in the Pretrial Order to the application of Kansas law.  By urging the Court to adopt and interpret a mahr contract that is written in Farsi and dictated by interpretations of Iranian and/or religious law, the Court would be compelled to apply a contract 1) it cannot read and 2) that is contrary to the public policy of Kansas law....

Another cautionary concern in enforcing a mahr agreement is that they stem from jurisdictions that do not separate church and state, and may, in fact, embed discrimination through religious doctrine. This, in turn, creates an obvious tension between the Establishment and Equal Protection Clauses under the federal constitution [and similar state provisions]....

Perpetuating such discrimination under the guise of judicial sensitivity to Establishment Clause prohibitions would, in effect, abdicate the judiciary’s overall constitutional role to protect such fundamental rights.... Even assuming this Court could interpret the contract, it would then be put in the dilemma of fashioning a remedy under a contract that clearly emanates from a legal code that may be antithetical to Kansas law.  
Volokh Conspiracy has more on the decision. [Thanks to Steven H. Sholk for the lead.]