Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
BC Family Property Dowry Mahr

BC Family Property Dowry Mahr Lawyers handle cases involving the interplay between division of BC family property with cultural and traditional marriage contracts. MacLean Law has won the Top Choice, Best Vancouver Family Law Firm multiple times and the last 3 years straight. Our family property and debt division lawyers handle all types of family property and family property agreement disputes.


BC Family Property Dowry Mahr Lawyers know that the interplay, and sometimes clash, between traditional transfers of assets upon marriage and the British Columbia property division laws require careful interpretation and navigation by lawyers expert in these issues.  A dowry is the money or goods that a bride’s family gives to her new husband and/or his family when they are married. Other terms associated with the exchange of wealth during a marriage are “bride price” and “dower.” A bride price refers to money that a groom would pay to his bride’s father in exchange for her hand in marriage. The dower is the property that is settled upon for the bride at the time of marriage so that she is taken care of should she survive her husband.

BC Family Property Dowry Mahr Lawyers 

Tal Wolf explains that BC residents who were married in Iran or otherwise in accordance with traditional Persian culture may have entered into a “mahr” (or “mehir”), similar to a dower except paid directly to the bride and specified in the marriage contract signed during an Islamic marriage.  The mahr is often money, but it also can be anything agreed upon such as furniture, land, jewelry, personal goods or a house.  The prenuptial or marriage agreement lawyers at MacLean Law deal with cases where parties who have lived for many years – and in some cases for much of the length of their marriage – in Canada end up raising mahr terms to alter what otherwise would be a relatively straightforward equal division of assets under Part 5 of the BC Family Law Act.

BC Family Property Dowry Mahr Lawyers explain that under the old Family Relations Act, claims to enforce provisions of these kinds of religious marriage certificates have been accepted in British Columbia where the evidence established that they met the definition of “marriage agreement.” (See, e.g., Delvarani v. Delvarani, 2012 BCSC 162M. (N.M.) v. M. (N.S.), 2004 BCSC 346Amlani v. Hirani, 2000 BCSC 1653.  These cases are still relevant because, per s.252(2)(a) of the current Family Law Act, Iranian marriage certificates signed before 2013 when the Family Relations Act was still in force are determined and enforced under the old Act.

BC Family Property Dowry Mahr Lawyers Call 1 877 602 9900

In Delvarani, the court reviewed these cases and concluded that the marriage portion of an analogous religious marriage certificate “has been interpreted to be in the nature of a reverse dowry or sum of money agreed upon by the parties, which is to be paid by the husband to the wife in the event of a separation” (at para. 202). However, it was emphasized that the evidence must support that conclusion in each case.

In Amlani, the court was satisfied that it was a term of the marriage contract that the “marriage portion” amount (the mahr, in that case) was payable upon dissolution of the marriage. A similar finding was made in M. (N.M.). In both of these cases, the marriage portion was enforced as a marriage agreement. In Delvarani it was not, as the judge was not satisfied that an agreement had in fact been reached.

Even if the dowry is a valid marriage agreement under the Family Relations Act, it is subject to being set aside if the court determines it to be unfair, a less stringent standard than that under the Family Law Act. In Amlani and M. (N.M.), the amounts claimed were relatively modest, in the range of $50,000. In Mohammadi v. Mohammadi, 2016 BCSC 1873, the amount claimed was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.  The Court refused to enforce the mahr: “The evidence here is far from clear. No expert evidence was adduced about the traditions of dowry or its enforceability in Iran. The marriage portion of the document does not refer to separation but simply states that the 700 gold coins are ‘the husband’s liability and payable to the Wife upon her demand’. Neither the respondent nor the claimant testified that the dowry was payable in the event of separation but they agreed that it had to be paid or waived if they wanted to register their Iranian divorce.”

BC Family Property Dowry Mahr Lawyers Call 1 877 602 9900

Just a few months ago, the Mahr issue was revisited in Nadim v. Hakim, 2018 BCSC 1999.  The wife introduced a certificate from the B.C. Muslim Association certifying that the parties are legally husband and wife, and that “The bridal money (Mahr) agreed upon between the two was 1000 % mith’raqi.”  The husband said that as part of a religious ceremony, he agreed to a “marriage portion of 1000 % mith’raqi“, which he said is a measurement of gold roughly equally to a kilogram. He thought the 1000 % mith’raqi would be worth approximately $50,000.  He testified that when he agreed to the marriage portion, he understood it to be a religious ceremony and not legally binding. He did not have legal advice. He said that he did not have 1000% mith’raqi or $50,000 at the time of the religious ceremony nor did he have it at the time of trial. 

The Court opined:

50      Religious contracts may be enforced if they meet the requirements of a marriage contract . . . .

51      In the case at bar, if a full document was signed, it was not adduced. There is no evidence as to what “bridal money” means or under what terms it is payable. Other than the assumptions or guesses of the parties, there is no evidence as to the value of 1000 % mith’raqi, either at the time any agreement was made or now. If it is meant to be a payment made upon divorce, it would appear to be something that has no relationship to the financial obligations of the parties under B.C. law. As was held in both Delvarani and Mogammadi for similar reasons, I conclude there is no enforceable obligation.

BC Family Property Dowry Mahr Lawyers Call 1 877 602 9900

BC Family Property Dowry Mahr Lawyers note the lesson to be learned is that religious marriage certificates or dowers, including mahrs may be enforced in divorce proceedings, but not automatically so.  While the Courts take them seriously, the standard procedural, evidentiary and substantive requirements for any marriage agreement still are applied with vigor, and at times to the significant disappointment of the party raising the “contract”.  Especially in long marriages where the value and context of gifts exchanged are outmoded, with memories faded and witnesses unavailable or no longer with us, these factually nuanced inquiries often turn on the quality of presentation in the courtroom, and on the knowledge and experience of your family lawyer with traditional marriage scenarios. 

Call Tal Wolf Of Our BC Family Property Dowry Mahr Lawyers toll free across BC at 1 877 602 9900