Tag Archive for: Prenuptial Agreements

Carolyn Hax wrote an interesting column in The Washington Post in response to a woman who was surprised when her fiancé presented her with a prenup a month and a half before the wedding.

There were many comments discussing the pros and cons of prenuptial agreements.  But to my mind, people were missing the point.

They set the problem up as though the choices were having a prenup and getting divorced or living happily ever after in marriage until death do us part.

The thing is the legislature has already made a prenuptial agreement for you which is the default if you do not make your own.  It is called the domestic relations law and it is contained in the law books which publish the code for your state and the appellate cases which interpret that law.  It is several  pages long and incredibly complicated.  You will be blissfully unaware of it until and unless you get divorced.  Then you will say, “The law says what?”

So I think the choices are actually these: In the unhappy event we do get divorced, (a) do we want to make our own agreement now or (b) do we want the law, the judge and the lawyers to make one for us later?  Hopefully, you will make a prenuptial agreement and throw it in a drawer somewhere and never have to pull it out.

One thing that makes our law practice in DC and its Maryland and DC suburbs interesting is that we have a lot of international clients, such as employees of the World Bank or International Monetary Fund.  We are used to prenuptial agreements and waivers of common law rights like dower and curtesy and all rights granted under Maryland law or any other state or nation.  But when you have clients who married under Islamic law, you may also have to inquire about Mahr.

Mahr (also spelled mehr, meher, or mahrieh), according to Wikipedia.org is “a gift, mandatory in Islam, which is given by the groom to the bride upon marriage in Islamic cultures (in contrast to other cultures’ bride price, which is paid to the bride’s father).  It is considered to be a form of appreciation, as well as providing certain guarantees for the woman.”

The gift may be slight or major involving investments and real estate according to the social status of the bride.  It can be paid in installments, one at marriage and the other if the husband dies or the parties divorce.

“According to a tradition in Bukhari, the mahr is an essential condition for the legality of the marriage: ‘Every marriage without mahr is null and void’.”  Encyclopaedia of Islam.  The Qur’an also mentions Mahr at verse 4:4.