Mahr – Potential Capital Liability on Divorce – UAE and English Divorce Proceedings

Mahr – Potential Capital Liability on Divorce – UAE and English Divorce Proceedings

Family Law – UAE and UK

A mahr is part of many Muslim marriage contracts. It is the obligation in the form of money or possessions paid by the groom to his bride either at the time of marriage or at a specified time thereafter.  The mahr can be separated into two parts. The first part is payable at the time of the marriage and the second part being a deferred and promised amount.  Often the deferred amount is larger than the amount paid at the time of the marriage and the deferred portion is paid with the understanding that it is an amount to provide the wife with a means of support in the event of the death of or divorce from the husband.

It is therefore important to consider any amount of mahr in the event that the marriage breaks down and the couple divorce.  In the Dubai / any Sharia Court, this amount is separate from any maintenance that the wife may be entitled to receive.   As a result of the marriage contract, the husband must fulfil this obligation to his wife.  Similarly, upon the husband’s death, the amount of the deferred mahr will be due to the wife from the husband’s estate.  

As a contrast, there have been an increasing number of cases before the English Courts on issues such a mahr principally arising from the conflict between English and Islamic law. Civil law provides that upon the divorce of the couple, the mahr cannot be claimed in full in the same way as provided for by Sharia law.  Under English Law it will form part of the overall financial arrangements that the family Court will need to consider.  As there is no specific legislation under English law to settle disputes over the mahr, the Courts will have to ensure that fairness and justice are upheld for the parties and look at factors contained in Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.  

In a recent case heard by the Central Family Court in England, the wife demanded payment of £55,000 pursuant to an oral mahr.  For the first time, the English Courts have had to consider an oral mahr and the decision is a much awaited one, especially for women whose culture provides for the tradition of giving mahr.

For further information or advice in relation to family law matters, please contact our Family Department

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