Many Americans marry according to well-established religious practices in their church, temple, or mosque. Minnesota law outlines the procedure that various religions use in a marriage solemnization ceremony as follows:
Subd. 2. Baha’i. Marriages may be solemnized among members of the Baha’i faith by the chair of an incorporated local Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is, according to the form and usage of such society.
Subd. 3. Hindus; Muslims. Marriages may be solemnized among Hindus or Muslims by the person chosen by a local Hindu or Muslim association, according to the form and usage of their respective religions.
Subd. 4. American Indians. Marriages may be solemnized among American Indians according to the form and usage of their religion by an Indian Mide’ or holy person chosen by the parties to the marriage.
Minn. Stat. 517.18. Since religion plays an important role in marriage, certain religious implications are often a major consideration for individuals contemplating divorce. The judicial system treats all divorces alike, regardless of whether the spouses were married according to religious practices. However, for some, religious practices may present unique challenges during the marriage dissolution process.
For example, in some Islamic divorces, the issue of contracts (marriage) and mahr, or “marital gift,” is highly litigated. A mahr is paid by the groom to the bride either at the time of marriage or at a later time. A mahr might range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. A mahr can become a disputed issue, where one spouse will want to enforce it as it is beneficial to their case and the other spouse will object to the enforcement of the clause.
The law in Minnesota regarding the payment of mahr incident to divorce is unclear. In some other states, courts will typically not enforce the payment of mahr for public policy reasons. In other states, courts have sometimes interpreted Muslim marriage contracts to be a type of prenuptial or antenuptial agreement, or have simply applied contract law to determine the enforceability of mahr agreements.
Another issue concerns Muslim couples who decide to consult with an Imam to obtain a divorce. To be valid, Muslims in America seeking a divorce must still comply with state divorce laws to be enforceable.
Our experienced family law attorneys understand the diverse legal issues of divorce and can help clients navigate sensitive religious issues. If you have questions regarding the enforceability of mahr agreements, or simply want to consult with a family law attorney who understands the cultural and religious implications surrounding divorce, contact our Minnesota Divorce Attorneys for a free consultation.