Islamic Mahr

Portland Family Lawyer Ronald Allen Johnston Pioneers New Family Law Areas

In a multicultural society, there may be additional considerations for a husband or father involved in divorce proceedings, including religious and cultural customs concerning property division. Portland family attorney Ronald Allen Johnston will do the research and preparation necessary to fight for fathers’ rights in these matters as well. In fact, Mr. Johnston successfully defended a husband against the negative financial effects of an Islamic tradition this past year.

Convincing the Court

In April 2011, Ronald Johnston represented the respondent in a trial of first impression in Oregon on the issue of Islamic mahr. A trial “of first impression” means that the issue has not been ruled on by a court in Oregon. Mahr is a contract traditionally made in an Islamic marriage, in which the groom promises to pay a “dowry” to the bride. In this case, the mahr included a promise to pay 1,000 Bahar-eAzadi gold coins, valued at approximately $74,000 at the time of the wedding. When the wife demanded the mahr just before filing her divorce petition, the value of the coins was over $270,000.

Trial proceedings in Portland took two and a half days, plus three follow-up hearings. Each lawyer filed briefs that cited eight cases in six other states dealing with mahr. During the litigation, Mr. Johnston had to interview several witnesses in Iran. He took a perpetuation deposition of an Iranian witness who spoke only Farsi and needed an interpreter. Portland family attorney Ronald Johnston also interviewed an Iranian law professor and utilized him as an expert at trial.

Mr. Johnston made several legal and factual arguments, including the following:

  • The court had no jurisdiction on the claim of mahr.
  • There was no “meeting of the minds” as required to be a valid contract.
  • If the agreement was enforceable, it could be enforceable only as a pre-nuptial agreement and the parties did not comply with the pre-nuptial agreement statute.
  • If the contract was legally formed, the court should award the wife her mahr, but then award the husband an amount of marital property sufficient to offset the award, thereby making the overall effect “just and equitable.”
  • If mahr was enforceable, the court should treat it as “pre-marital property” under the landmark Kunze decision and award the husband a portion of it, therefore neutralizing the award.

After two and half days of trial, Mr. Johnston received a favorable ruling from the trial judge on the key issues. To Mr. Johnston’s knowledge, he is one of only two lawyers in Oregon who have researched and litigated the issue of Islamic mahr in the Oregon Court system.

If you are faced with an unusual divorce issue and need an innovative approach, contact Portland family lawyer Ronald Allen Johnston today. He is fighting for fathers in every possible way.

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