We have had a number of cases in our office relating to the enforceability of Islamic marriage agreements, also known as “Mahr” or “Mehr” agreements or “Mehrieh”.
These agreements provide for an agreed upon sum of money (or sometimes gold coins, or other property) to be paid to the Wife in the event of divorce.
Clients I represent are often surprised to hear that in New York State, Mahr agreements are enforceable as contracts. I have had several cases where the Mahr agreement has been a central issue in the negotiations. In other cases, the parties agree to go to a mediator, or religious leader in their mosque, to deal with the issue.
For example, in the case of S.B. v. W.A., a New York trial court very recently issued an order declaring an Abu Dhabi Mahr agreement as fully enforceable. The Muslim couple in that case was from the United Arab Emirates and a Mahr had been entered into as part of a religious ceremony two months after the parties’ civil marriage. The New York court concluded, however: “Since a Mahr agreement may be enforced according to neutral principles of law, it will survive any constitutional challenge and be enforceable as a contractual obligation.” The agreement entitled the wife to $250,000 in case of a divorce.