Zawahiri v. Alwattar

The Court invalided a mahr agreement where the Husband entered into the agreement under coercion.

Zawahiri v. Alwattar, 2008 Ohio 3473 (2008) Court: Court of Appeals of Ohio, 10th Appellate District, Franklin County

Husband and Wife were married in Ohio. Two hours before the Islamic marriage ceremony, the Husband was presented with the preprinted marriage contract with the amount of “mahr” (dowry) left blank. The mahr was decided on $25,000 postponed amount. A year later, the couple filed for divorce. The Wife argued that the marriage contract was a valid prenuptial agreement. The Husband argued that enforcement of the mahr provision would violate the Establishment Clause of the U.S. and Ohio Constitutions, and in the alternative that it did not satisfy the conditions for a necessary for a valid prenuptial agreement. The trial court found for the Husband and refused to enforce the mahr provision on two grounds:

1. The Establishment Clause of the Ohio Constitution, and
2. The circumstances under which the couple entered the contract rendered it invalid and unenforceable as a prenuptial agreement.

The Wife appealed the trial court’s decision. On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the lower court’s ruling that the contract was an invalid prenuptial agreement because the Husband entered into it under circumstances of stress and coercion. The Wife argued that the marriage contract should have been analyzed as a general contract and not as a prenuptial agreement. In response, the court stated that the Wife waived this argument by failing to bring it up before the trial court. There was no extraordinary reason to exempt her because she was requesting a ruling from the appellate court (the contract is an invalid prenuptial agreement) that was contrary to the ruling she had requested from the trial court (the contract is a valid prenuptial agreement). The court also dismissed the Wife claim that the trial court violated her equal protection rights.

History: The case was appeal and review was denied by the Supreme Court of Ohio.