IN RE MARRIAGE OF SHABAN
88 Cal.App.4th 398 (2001)

FACTS
In 1974, the parties married in Egypt under Islamic law and moved to the United States in the 1980s. In 1998, the parties divorced.  In the divorce proceedings, the husband sought to introduce parol evidence in the form of expert testimony that would prove that the document the husband and the wife’s father had signed was, in actuality, a prenuptial agreement that the husband and wife intended be governed by Islamic law. The Trial Court refused to admit the parol evidence and divided the property according to California law. The husband appealed the decision.

ISSUE
Whether parol evidence is admissible in divorce proceedings where the statute of frauds cannot be satisfied because the document in question is too uncertain in its terms and conditions.

RULING
The Appellate Court affirmed the Trial Court’s decision, holding that the document signed by the parties was “hopelessly uncertain as to its terms and conditions” to satisfy the statute of frauds on its own. The Court noted that while parol evidence is admissible, “the statute of frauds requires that the contract itself not be the product of parol evidence.” The Court further explained that “[h]ad the trial judge allowed the expert to testify, the expert in effect would have written a contract for the parties” because the document itself did not provide any substantive terms or conditions. Thus, the Trial Court was correct in refusing to allow the husband to introduce the expert testimony.

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