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In re Marriage of Obaidi

In re Marriage of Obaidi, 154 Wn. App. 609; 226 P.3d 787 (2010) Court: Court of Appeals of Washington, Division3

The court, in favor of the husband, found that a mahr agreement that the husband signed without knowing the terms of the agreement was invalid and unenforceable.

Husband and Wife, both of Afghan descent, were married in the U.S. They held a “nikkah” (the court here describes as ‘engagement’) ceremony during which a “mahr” was signed (a prenuptial agreement that provides an immediate and long-term dowry to the wife). The mahr listed a postponed payment of $20,000. The Husband did not speak, read, or write Farsi. The Husband was told about the nikkah ceremony 15 minutes before the event took place. He asked an uncle to act as his representative during the discussion, but was not told the terms of the mahr until after he had signed it. Two years later, the Wife filed for divorce and argued that the Husband was required to pay her $20,000. The trial court found in favor of the wife and awarded her the $20,000 plus attorney fees.

The Husband appealed the trial court’s decision. On appeal, the court reversed and found for the husband. Applying principles of contract law, the court held that the mahr agreement was invalid. The mahr was not clear on why or when the $20,000 would be paid. And furthermore, this mahr was not a valid contract where there was a “meeting of the minds on the essential terms.” The negotiations and the document were all in Farsi, and the Husband did not have the opportunity to seek advice before he signed the mahr. The court concluded that the Husband and Wife never entered into a valid contract which provided for $20,000 to be paid to the Wife in the event of a divorce.

Note: Request for review was denied by the Supreme Court of Washington.

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