On July 19, 2021, the NY Supreme Court, Nassau County, granted a Husband’s Motion for Summary Judgment where he sought an order holding the parties’ mahr term in their nikah agrreement invalid and unenforceable. Among the various arguments the Husband made, he argued that the mahr provision, which was to give his Wife $50,000 at their divorce, was invalid and unenforceable because it lacked an acknowledgment, which violated NY Domestic Relations Law 236(B)(3). Caselaw in NY establish that a proper acknowledgment is an “essential prerequisite” and that the document, which was signed by 2 witnesses instead of being acknowledged does not satisfy the DRL.
NY DRL 236(B)(3) states: “An agreement by the parties, made before or during the marriage, shall be valid and enforceable in a matrimonial action if such agreement is in writing, subscribed by the parties, and acknowledged or proven in the manner required to entitle a deed to be recorded. …”
The parties were civilly married in March 2016 in NY, and then held an Islamic marriage ceremony in September 2016, also in NY. The nikah agreement, containing a mahr provision, was signed and recorded by the spouses in front of two male witnesses who performed their Islamic ceremony, and their guests. The Wife argued the agreement is distinct from a pre- or post-nuptial agreement and an acknowledgement is not required when there is alternative proof of signing through witnesses.
The court tangentially addressed the fact that religious contracts have been upheld through “neutral principles of law,” but the lack of an acknowledgment was the fatal flaw.