Farah v. Farah

The Court, in favor of the Husband, held that a proxy marriage held in England in accordance with Islamic Law was invalid.

Farah v. Farah, 16 Va. App. 329; 429 S.E.2d 626 (1993) Court: Court of Appeals of Virginia

Husband is a citizen of Algeria and Wife is a citizen of Pakistan. They signed a “nikah” (marriage form) by proxy. Then, a marriage ceremony was conducted in the presence of their proxy representatives in England. Neither the Husband nor the Wife was present in England, and no marriage certificate was issues in England. After a month after the proxy ceremony, the couple participated in a “Rukhsati” (ceremony symbolizing the sending away of the bride with her husband) in Pakistan. The couple, then, returned to Virginia, where they bought a home and lived as husband and wife.

One year later, they separated. The Husband filed to have the marriage void, and the Wife filed for divorce and equitable distribution of the couple’s assets. In Virginia, a marriage is valid if it is valid in the jurisdiction where it was celebrated. At trial, the Husband presented evidence that the proxy ceremony did not meet the requirement under the laws of England, and so the marriage was not valid from the beginning. The Wife argued that even if the Husband is correct, the marriage was valid because the ceremony was completed in Pakistan with the Rukhsati and proxy marriages are valid in Pakistan. The trial court ruled in favor of the wife, granted the divorce, and ordered equitable division of their marital property.

The Husband appealed the trial court’s decision. On appeal, the appellate court reversed and found in favor of the Husband. The court held that the Ruksati did not have legal significance and was not a requirement for a legal marriage in Pakistan. The marriage was contracted and celebrated in England, and so, English law determines the validity of the marriage. Since the proxy ceremony did not meet the requirements under the laws of England, the couple had never entered into a valid marriage. The court also disagreed with the Wife that the couple had entered into a common-law marriage. “Virginia does not recognize common-law marriages where the relationship is created in Virginia.” Because the relationship as husband and wife was created in Virginia, the couple did not enter into a recognized common-law marriage.

History: A petition for a rehearing was denied by the Court of Appeals of Virginia.

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