Dowries In the Modern Age: What Happens to an Islamic Mahr, Mehrieh, Mehr, or Dowry, During a Maryland Divorce: Part 2

by Reza Golesorkhi
May 30th, 2014

jpeg

In my previous post I talked about the Islamic concept of Mehr, Mehrieh or Dowry.  This post will discuss how Maryland Courts may address the issue of Mehr or Mehrieh when an Iranian family, married in Iran, and now living in Maryland, files for divorce in Maryland.

My Iranian divorce clients, who were married in Iran, almost always ask me: “Can I get my Mehr or Mehrieh when I file in Divorce.”  The Answer is: it depends.

And it depends on how a Maryland Court looks at the concept of Mehr or Mehrieh.  There are many good arguments for and against the concept of Mehrieh under Maryland divorce laws.

Arguments for Mehr or Mehrieh

  1. It is a Gift.  Maryland divorce laws treats an engagement ring as a gift before the marriage and therefore cannot be divided in a divorce.  So, it could be argued, that there is little difference between giving spouse a 5 carat diamond engagement ring as opposed to a promise (or gift) for 100 gold coins, which is what happens under the Muslim Faith and is referred to as Mehr, Mehrieh or Dowry.
  1. It is a ContractIn many Middle Eastern cultures, the Mehr, Mehrieh or Dowry is in writing.  Therefore, if held to be valid contract under Maryland law, a spouse can enforce her right in civil court under contract laws rather than in family court under divorce laws.

Arguments against Mehr or Mehrieh

  1. Same as Alimony:  Maryland law provides an income dependent spouse (the spouse that has no money or doesn’t work) the right to obtain support from his or her spouse.  That support is referred to as Alimony.  Depending on the length of the marriage and other factors, alimony can be for determined period of time or indefinite.  The purpose of alimony is to provide monetary support to the other spouse so that he or she can maintain a certain living standard.  The purpose of alimony is very similar to Mehr, Mehrieh or Dowry.  In Middle Eastern countries, the Mehr or Dowry serves as a form of security or money the wife could use in the future for her own benefit upon marriage breakdown.  Therefore, an Iranian spouse cannot get her Mehr and Alimony.
  1. Fairness:  That one cannot apply for divorce under Maryland Law and obtain all the benefits of the marital rights in Maryland and go back to her home country and attempt to collect her Mehr, Mehrieh or Dowry.

Other jurisdictions have also taken a similar approach.  The common approach is that if Dowry is treated as gift on top of the 50% presumptive entitlement to family assets, most often men are left with less than 50% of the family assets and a large ‘gift’ they have to pay the wife at the time of marriage break down, which doesn’t appear to be fair.

In general, Courts acknowledge the concept of Mehr, Mehrian or Dowry as a religious right or a tradition, but cancel or void it due to the following factors:

  • 1) The total family assets may be worth less than the amount of the Mehr.;
  • 2) The Mehr contract was negotiated shortly before marriage and therefore not enough thought or negotiation took place before the signing;
  • 3) The parties did not seek independent legal advice;
  • 4) The contract was negotiated between the parents and not the parties and is therefore not binding;

Notwithstanding the above arguments, in most cases, given the uncertain outcome, most litigation on this issue are costly.  Therefore, the majority of cases resolves where the woman decides to go for a 50/50 split on the family assets and obtain alimony in the United States and then go to Iran and sue for their Mehr. This means that the husband, upon entering Iran, Iraq or any country that enforces Mahr, has to pay it before being able to exit the country.

The best way to prevent the above is to enter into a Marital Settlement Agreement in the United States that specifically addresses the issue of Mehr, Mehrieh or Dowry.  This way each party is protected.

There are international development on this issue, particularly in Canada which has a high population of Iranian immigrants.  Any new developments on this issue will be further updated on our Blog.

Reza Golesorkhi is widely recognized as one of a handful of elite divorce lawyers in the Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C.area.  While Reza is skilled at all facets of client advocacy, it is his skill as a trial lawyer and his command of the courtroom that sets him apart.  He is the divorce lawyer you want in the court.  

Contact Reza Golesorkhi

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.

Disclaimer

The JGL Law Blog is made available by the Firm and/or the law firm publisher for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law. The JGL Law Blog is not designed to and does not provide specific legal advice. Use of, or comments on, this Blog does not create an Attorney Client Relationship with the Firm or any of the authors of the Blog Posts.

This blog is for general informational purposes only. Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, PA is a law firm and some of the information on the blog relates to legal topics. Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, PA does not offer or dispense legal advice through this blog or by e-mails directed to or from this site. By using the blog, the reader agrees that the information on this blog does not constitute legal or other professional advice and no attorney-client or other relationship is created between the reader and Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, PA or its attorneys. The blog is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a qualified attorney licensed in your state. The information on the blog may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct or up-to-date. While the blog is revised on a regular basis, it may not reflect the most current legal developments. The opinions expressed at or through the blog are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the firm or any individual attorney. The JGL Law Blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

To ensure compliance with requirements imposed by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service in Circular 230, we inform you that any tax advice contained on this site (including any links provided) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing, or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed in this communication.

˅