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In re Marriage of Shaban

In re Marriage of Shaban, 88 Cal. App. 4th 398; 105 Cal. Rptr. 2d 863 (2001) Court: Court of Appeal of California, 4th Appellate District, Division 3

The court awarded Wife assets in accordance to California community property law where the Husband could not prove the existence of a prenuptial agreement apart from the testimony of an Islamic Law expert.

Husband and Wife were married in Egypt in 1974. After living in the U.S. for 17 years, the couple filed for divorce. During the divorce proceedings, the Husband claimed that the couple had a written prenuptial agreement and produced a one-page piece of paper written in Arabic and signed at the time of the wedding by the Husband and the Wife’s father. The Husband wanted to have an expert testify that the paper stated the Husband and Wife’s intent to be governed by Islamic Law in marriage and divorce, including property relations. The Husband argued that the Wife would then have no right to the Husband’s medical practice or retirement accounts. The trial court refused to allow the expert to testify. Also, the trial court found that the document was really a marriage certificate and not a prenuptial agreement. The property was then ordered to be divided according to California community property law. The court also ordered Husband to provide the Wife with her attorney fees for future appeals by the Husband.

Husband appealed the trial court’s decision. On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision and held that because the Statute of Frauds applied to prenuptial agreements, parole evidence of the expert’s testimony was properly excluded. The court also found that the language in the document did not clearly state the parties’ desire to have their marriage and divorce governed by Islamic Law and so was too vague to satisfy the Statute of Frauds. The court takes notice of ambiguity of the term “Islamic Law” given the various schools of interpretations that exist within Islamic Law. The appellate court also affirmed the award to the Wife for attorney fees.

Note: Request for rehearing and review was denied by the Appellate Court and the Supreme Court of California

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