IN THE MATTER OF THE MARRIAGE OF OBAIDI
154 Wash.App. 609, 226 P.3d 787 (2010)
The parties were married on December 30, 2005 in the State of Washington under Islamic Law. They entered into an Islamic Marriage Contract which included a mahr provision written in Farsi. The husband did not speak, read or write Farsi. The mahr was $100.00 immediate and $20,000.00 postponed. The parties executed the contract before two witnesses and a religious Imam conducted the marriage. The terms of the mahr provision were explained to the husband after he had executed the document.
The wife later filed for divorce, seeking enforcement of the $20,000 postponed payment. The Trial Court ruled in favor of the wife. On appeal, the husband argued that the mahr provision was unenforceable under contract law or as a prenuptial agreement.
Whether the mahr agreement is enforceable where one party executed the document without understanding the terms of the contract until after signing.
The Appellate Court reversed, holding that neutral principles of contract law governed the interpretation and enforceability of the prenuptial agreement. The Court held that a valid contract requires “mutual assent, offer, acceptance and consideration.” Here, the Court concluded that the contract was invalid for lack of mutual assent. Specifically, the Court noted that a meeting of the minds did not exist because: (1) the husband was advised of the mahr ceremony 15 minutes before he signed the document; (2) he did not read, write or speak Farsi; and (3) he was unaware of the terms of the agreement until they were explained to him by an uncle after the document was signed. The Court also held that there was duress and pressures to sign the agreement by family.