Docket No. A-5191-08T3

The parties married in Maryland on September 6, 2009 under Islamic law. The couple signed an Islamic Marriage Contract that included a mahr of $12,500 immediate payment. About a year later, the wife moved out of the house and in December 2007, the husband filed for a divorce or an annulment. The wife defaulted and the trial court proceeded with a default hearing. The wife and attorney were present but did not participate in the trial.

The Trial Court granted the husband a divorce on the basis that the wife’s failure to engage in sexual relations, the wife’s lack of personal hygiene and the wife’s decision to move out of the house constituted extreme cruelty. The Trial Court also ordered wife to return the $12,500 mahr because she did not disclose important information at the time of the marriage ceremony such as her pre-existing mental illness, which contributed to the downfall of the marriage. Under Islamic law, the mahr is valid as long as neither party is at fault in terminating the marriage.

Lastly, the Trial Court ordered the wife to pay her ex-husband half of the appraised value of the jewelry she had received as a gift at the time of the marriage. The wife appealed this decision, arguing that (1) there was a conflict of interest involving the husband’s expert witness, and (2) the trial court ruled incorrectly in finding that she was an impediment to the marriage.

Whether the mahr, or prenuptial agreement, is refundable where one spouse fails to disclose a mental illness to her husband, refuses to engage in marital relations, neglects her own hygiene and unilaterally choses to move out of the marital home.

The Appellate Court affirmed the Trial Court’s decision on both issues brought on appeal.

As to the first issue, the Court found that engaging in two, brief conversations with the opposing party did not create a conflict of interest. Moreover, the Court was disinclined to review this issue because wife failed to raise this issue at the trial level. On the second issue, the Appellate Court stated that the wife was at fault in terminating the marriage and held that there was evidence to support the trial court’s findings.

Since the wife could not meet her burden of proving the existence of a conflict of interest and that she was not at fault in terminating the marriage, the Court affirmed the Trial Court’s order to refund the husband the $12,500 mahr.


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