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Chaudhary v. Ali

Chaudhary v. Ali, No. 0956-94-4; 1994 Va. App. LEXIS 759; 1995 WL 40079 (VA Ct. App. 1995)

The court, in favor of the Wife, held that a nikah nama with no provision for the wife, disclosure of the husband’s assets, nor independent counsel was not an enforceable prenuptial agreement.

Husband and Wife were married in Pakistan. At time of marriage, Husband and Wife signed a “nikah nama” (marriage contract) which barred the wife from receiving anything from the Husband in the event of a divorce. The trial court ruled that the nikah nama was not an enforceable premarital agreement and awarded the Wife spousal support in the amount of $1,500/month.

Husband appealed the trial court’s decision. On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision on both the nikah nama and the spousal support. The court stated that for the nikah nama to be a valid prenuptial agreement, four requirements must be met at the time of the signing:

  1. There must be “a fair and reasonable provision” for the wife. Or in the absence of such provision, “full and frank disclosure to her of the husband’s worth:
  2. Wife must sign freely and voluntarily;
  3. Wife must have competent independent advice;
  4. Wife must have full knowledge of her rights

In this case, there was no disclosure of the husband’s assets and the wife did not receive independent advice before signing the nikah nama. Therefore, under Virginia law, this nikah nama was not an enforceable prenuptial agreement. Regarding spousal support, the court looked at the value of the couple’s residence and real estate, as well as a previous mortgage loan application listing the Husband’s income as $13,256/month. The wife had never worked outside the home. Considering the “relative needs and abilities of the parties,” the court affirmed the trial court’s award of $1,500/month to the Wife.

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