Collaborative Divorce — breaking up doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank

The collaborative process, started by Minneapolis family lawyer Stuart Webb in 1990, provides alternative dispute resolution using a team of professionals working jointly for the couple, rather than in adversarial roles. It is just now hitting the radar screen in Illinois, where practitioners estimate that about 300 divorces have been handled this way in the last several years. The state averages about 35,000 divorces a year, records show.

Both parties agree not to enter litigation. Couples often hire attorneys trained in collaborative law and bring in shared accountants, financial planners, business valuation experts, child psychologists and even life coaches to help the couple. Unlike impartial mediators, the attorneys can advise their clients as advocates.

Proponents say it dramatically cuts the tension–and the costs–involved in traditional contested divorces.

There are skeptics, however. Among the critics are those who say the peacefulness of the process encourages divorce and attorneys who say the best representation for any divorcing spouse is a vigorous offense.

Participants in a collaborative divorce sign documents promising to disclose all assets, and their attorneys agree to walk away from the case if the parties end up going to trial.

An average contested divorce can run about $30,000, but it’s not uncommon for some to reach six figures, attorneys say.

Collaborative costs vary widely, depending on the number of professionals involved and the number of meetings it takes for spouses to agree on a settlement. Collaborative attorneys estimate that most of these cases settle for half to a third of what their bill would have been with a court battle. Settlements must be reviewed and approved by a judge.

Costs ranged from $5,000 to $21,000, representing as high as 15 percent of annual household income.

Even friendly divorces come with costs that reach beyond the courtroom, however, and women especially tend to feel the strain. Divorce Magazine reported the drop in standard of living for women after divorce was 45 percent in 2000. About 20 percent of people filing personal bankruptcy had been recently divorced, according to Harvard University law professor Elizabeth Warren, who has studied families in dire financial straits since 1986 and who is considered one of the leading national authorities on bankruptcies.

Your staff: In addition to consulting attorneys, divorcing couples are turning to specialized financial planners to run living cost estimates, decide the value of family businesses and prepare investment return projections on proposed settlements.

Typically these are accountants, certified financial planners or other financial advisers who offer a specialized divorce practice. Someone who has a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst designation has also taken a self-study course and completed four exams related to divorce finances, but be sure to inquire what other credentials he or she has. Training is done through the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts in Southfield, Mich. (800-875-1760).

If you’ll need help valuing assets or a business, or suspect your future ex may be hiding money you also may need to contact a forensic accountant.

If you are the primary breadwinner but are considering a lower-paying job as you go through the divorce transition years, tread carefully. Some judges will require you to maintain your family’s previous standard of living. A judge may rule you’re more than capable of a high earning power and decide to award less alimony.

Your portfolio: If you think you’ll have to draw down some retirement money to cover expenses in the first few years of divorce, do it sooner rather than later, this way you can take a distribution at the time of divorce without a penalty,

Your tax return: Be sure to consider the tax consequences of your divorce settlement. The more money a primary breadwinner doles out as alimony instead of child support, the more he or she can deduct from income, experts say. The spouse receiving the alimony will have to pay income taxes on the money, but usually it will be at a lower tax bracket. Child support, on the other hand, isn’t deductible from income.

The Truth Will Stand When the World is on Fire

Summary

A version of this statement is often passed down within families. It comes from a variety of sources. One is Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice”: “The Truth will Out.” In Ephesians 5:9 of The Bible, a modern translation fits the statement: “The light within you produces what is good, right, and true.” Essentially, it is the little voice in our heart that tells us right from wrong. The world is on fire when enough people do not listen to that little voice. Yet, time after time, even when the world is on fire, enough people have listened, combined, and acted for the collective good. Another quote: “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an un-pitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” Give Edmund Burke, an Irish political philosopher, credit for saying something that we all know to be true.

Tests of our Character

It tends to happen in small groups. Someone does something out of line. What do the others in the small group do? Usually, they tolerate the act. Then, the antagonist believes that his/her activity has borne fruit. It happens again. Most likely, the group will take note, but will not get involved. A psychologist among them would have an opportunity to conduct a case study on what has become a group dynamic. For everyone else in the group, this could be the opening volley of misery. This is the tyrant in the office, the bully on the school ground,the rule breaker and mischief-maker. What happens if someone in the office realizes, after repeated disruptions, that he/she must stand up to the tyrant? What indeed? If one good person takes a stand, the rest of the group still must do something. Usually, they do nothing. “Let Human Resources handle it.” “Discipline is the teacher’s job.” These moments are a test of character for everyone in the small group. If someone stands up for right, and stands alone, the stronger personality will win. Quite often, the stronger personality belongs to the tyrant. An emboldened tyrant will dominate, much as a sheep-herding dog dominates sheep that outnumber the dog, perhaps 200:1.

Citizens

People predominately live their lives as members of a human society. In some parts of the world, those societies are still called tribes. In industrialized countries, citizens often form around villages, towns, cities. Folks identify themselves to be part of a district, a state, a region and a country. Besides geography, people form around their familial ties, their religion, their sport team, their school, their earned educational designation (society of engineers, local labor union). In all of these examples of shared human bonds, the rule of law is necessary. Someone must lead. He/’she is expected to promote the welfare of the society through governance. Tests of our character are found here too. The same people who will not listen to their inner voice, will not stand up for righteousness, will not support the one who does, also will not likely contribute to the society. They will not lead or volunteer to support. They will not vote and will not communicate with the one who was elected. When trouble comes,they expect the police to handle it. When their child acts out in public, they will not correct the child. Their country might have been born from sacrifice. Others, before them, may have given their lives to guarantee the freedoms that all of the citizens enjoy. Yet, in time of need, during crisis, and even during the safe times when voting in the best leader is so important, so many will shirk their obligation to their ancestors and to the society’s needs today. They will not listen to their inner voice. “Let someone else vote.” “Someone should say something to that lady who lets her dog C*** on their lawn.” “I don’t have time to answer that senator who asked me how he is doing in Congress.” “Those poor starving people in the earthquake zone;someone should organize food for them.” “What is the world coming to? Those people have just taken another country. Don’t they realize that their leader is a tyrant? I hope we stay out of it.”

The Truth

The rule of law only works when society enforces the rule. Many will argue that there is too much corruption and crime in the world, too many different points of view to gain consensus on what is right, vast distances in geography, and greater personal risks today make it harder to take a principled stand. Yet,no argument has the strength to withstand public scrutiny or self-examination. When we do not take a stand, we stand for nothing. Edmund Burke is not remembered for being correct about the stands that he took. He is admired for standing up. Any of us who have done that in our lives, look back on the moment without the stinging rebuke of regret. The ones who stand alone against the tyrant and bully stand tall, even if they lose. It is the ones who will not stand with him/her, those who let themselves fail the test of character, who cast their eyes down to their shoes in the presence of the one who was sacrificed. But, take heart. Some of the most admired, good people of societies were slackers for much of their early lives. One day,they looked up and stood up for right. That became their habit. The truth will stand when the world is on fire. Truth is revealed by people who will not tolerate a wrong. When they stand, they are the rock. Those who stand with them build a stone wall about that rock. Never are there too many of them to extinguish a moral fire. There can be too few. Stand up!

Understanding the Data Mapping Requirements for Your Information Governance Toolkit Assessment

With information governance recognised as an essential part of managing an efficient and high quality business, it is vital that organisations and individuals understand the importance of the concept and understand the way in which information is handled and transferred into and out of their organisation. Vital to understanding your own information management processes is the act of data mapping. This is now a key element for NHS bodies looking to demonstrate compliance against the information governance (IG) Toolkit standards.

Data mapping is an effective way to chart the flow of information into and out of an organisation and subsequently identify any high risk areas, allowing for the development of guidance to minimise these risks. The IG toolkit suggests that there are four key elements that need to be considered when mapping data;

1. Data Type

According to the Information Governance Toolkit guidelines, the types of data that should be mapped include such items as:

– Appointment letters – Birth notifications – Adoption records – Employment records – Personnel records – Payslips – Client surveys

This list is by no means exhaustive and as you start to think about the data that moves into and out of your organisation, you will appreciate that there is a great deal of information transferred.

There is also specific guidance available on the types of data that do not need to be mapped, an exclusion list, this includes items such as:

– Telephone conversations – Face to face discussions – Video conferencing

2. Data Format

The next thing to consider is the format that data is stored and transferred in; this includes both digital and hard copy data such as letters, x-rays, MP3 files, CDs, emails

3. Transfer methods

Again, the way in which data is transferred can include anything from courier delivery, faxes and internal documents being carried by staff to another department.

4. Location

When considering locations you need to think exactly where data is coming from and where it is going to, both internally and externally. For example: Schools, patients’ homes, other NHS organisations or departments, prison services etc.

Once you have considered all of the above points the next step is to map all of the different combinations of the 4 elements so that ultimately you are able to produce a clear and easy to understand map of exactly what, how and where information is transferred.

But the task doesn’t stop there, the next step is to analyse this map to identify any high risk areas where information security procedures could potentially be breached, you should then go on to produce guidance to minimise these risks to ensure that following your data mapping exercise your systems and mechanisms for data transfer are secure, efficient and appropriate.

The IG toolkit guidance suggests that within smaller organisations, all of the above could be carried out by one individual, who knows all of the processes involved in transferring data. However in larger organisations it is advised that a number of individuals contribute to this exercise to ensure that knowledge around specific department practices and procedures is shared, to enable a full understanding of the data transfer processes throughout the organisation.

New York Centre For Divorce

The New York centre for divorce and mediation offers a range of services about family relationships. Each of it plays a vital role giving more space to lead a complete happy family. Their service includes couples therapy, divorce and recovery, psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, collaborative divorce and mediation services. These services range with experienced professionals from the centre of divorce and recovery and the professional divorce and mediators in New York.

The peaceful forms of life are seen with the help of NYC divorce. It brings the complete solution to family relationships, thy helps to overcome the stress, strain and pain passing these days. Their situations are mastered by professionals with thorough analysis and starting with counseling. To get the solution for the problems, counseling in New York centre helps the couples to decide their commitments and responsibilities.

Individuals passing through a complex stage of life with destructive behavioral patterns, imbalance state in work and relationship with repeated failures are guided with the expert therapists in New York City. They can overcome such conditions with two experts and should have a consultation with psychoanalytic psychotherapists.

NYC therapists, psychoanalysts and psychotherapists play the key role with analyzing the persons strange conditions and problems under certain sessions according to their impact. Psychoanalysts connect the person with three to four sessions or sometimes five sessions a week, thoroughly analyzing their background and feelings. While connecting often helps the person to express out freely and could come out of their problem shell. Psychoanalysis is more helpful to fight the persons negative feelings and emotions. The sessions are proceeded with psychoanalytic psychotherapists consultation, where it helps the individual to express out and know their right way of life.

Marriage counseling in NYC helps the person to know oneself. It is very much important as it helps to avoid negative marriage complications like divorce or misunderstandings. With couples getting started with marriage counseling will have a very good understanding to life on a broad spectrum. Added to it, they are able to gain the best relationship with better understanding and good level of adjustments. Adjustment and patience is widely necessary, which they are advised to master in every phase of life.

NYC psychotherapy is the different approach to the people is the first step of consultation with the psychotherapists. After a consultation the patient is proceeded with further reference where they should offer all the necessary details including the insurance coverage. Soon, they are guided to solution on a unique way.

Steps to Building an Emergency Fund – AGT The Safe Money People

Ben Franklin once declared, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Yet, equally enlightening are his thoughts on expenses: “Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.”

And there are plenty of “leaks” that can scuttle an already-tight budget. For instance, a spouse idled by the sour economy, a fender bender with the family car, or an unexpected hospitalization. Thats why financial advisors recommend that you have a rainy-day fundenough liquid assets to cover three to six months worth of emergency living expenses. In case of financial emergency, access to additional money will save you from relying on credit cards or loans that simply compound the problem.

When starting an emergency fund, here are a few tips to abide by:

1.Determine what amount is best for you. Most experts agree that you should keep between three and six months worth of your living expenses set aside in your emergency fund. Your specific situation whether you have children, carry substantial debt and types of insurance coverage you have will determine what amount is best for you. Examine your situation your income and your needs to decide how much you should save.

2.Start small. Starting an emergency fund can be as simple as depositing $100 into your high-interest savings account. But before you begin, be sure that youre meeting your basic living expenses. And as you build your emergency fund, be sure youre also reducing your spending and avoiding debt.

3.Stick to a schedule. Get into the habit of making regular deposits. Whether it is weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, create a schedule and stick to it. Once you make saving automatic, you wont even have to think about it.

4.Consider an online savings account. In many cases, an “online” savings account may make more sense than an account at a traditional, bricks-and-mortar bank. Thats because many traditional banks are not currently offering a savings option with interest rates high enough to meaningfully beat inflation. In addition, an online savings account is a reliable way to manage your money.

Source:

Washington State Divorce Legal Issues

People approaching Washington divorces are often surprised by the deficiency of clear rules. People ask their lawyers, ” How much alimony do I have to pay?” ”How much child support will I owe?” How long I will have to pay?” How much of my pension does she get?” With very few exceptions, Washington Divorce Online has found that the law itself cannot give you very precise answers to these questions.

Either you and your spouse will negotiate a settlement between yourselves or a judge will determine the arrangements for you. In Washington State divorce cases, there are now formal guidelines that the court must follow in awarding child support. However, on most issues, judges are unfettered to implement their own discretion after hearing evidence, and this discretion extends even to child support guidelines.

You take your chances when you and your spouse go to trial. It can be a roll of the dice. Most judges do their best to be fair and professional, but, like the rest of us, judges are susceptible to their own prejudices and biases. If you don’t like the judge’s decisions you will either learn to live with them or you can appeal to a higher court, but few people ever utilize the appeal process. Appeals are difficult to win because the burden is on the person making the appeal to prove to the higher court that the trial judge misinterpreted the law or abused the discretion permitted the judge by law. Even if you are one of the few who wins on appeal, all you get most of the time is a new trial. The only way to be sure that your Washington divorce meets your needs is for you and your spouse to negotiate the resolution yourselves.

When you negotiate your agreement, you negotiate a contract voluntarily. You sign it voluntarily. You cannot decide that neither of you will support your children, and you cannot subject your children to danger or neglect. But, within very broad limits you are free to decide together, how you will resolve the issues at hand.

Settlement arrangements are negotiated in the shadow of the law. That means, you negotiate with an eye on what you think would happen if you were to go to trial and let the judge decide. Experienced lawyers often think they can predict what would happen at trial. Washington State Divorce lawyers tend to develop a consensus or sense of industry standards about the results of trials. They may agree that the judges “always give the wife half the house” or ” a third of the husbands pension.” They might agree that in a particular case $200.00 a week for child support would be unlikely. Lawyers who have appeared many times before the same judge may acquire useful generalizations. Much of this may be true indeed, but the truth is that you cannot depend on it. You may get a particular judge, or you may get that judge on a bad day, or your lawyer may be wrong. Although most lawyers will sovereignly foretell the outcome in court, few will guarantee you the conclusion. You need to treat such predictions with healthy ske pticism.

Paternity Tests in South Africa

Paternity Tests and the New Childrens Act

The new Childrens Act confirms in Section 36 a presumption in respect of a child born out of wedlock. The presumption is that the person whom had sexual intercourse with the mother at any time when that child could have been conceived will be presumed to be the biological father of the child in the absence of evidence to the contrary which raises reasonable doubt. In the case of S v L 1992 (3) SA 713 (E) it was held that the phrase “in the absence of evidence to the contrary which raises reasonable doubt” means that whenever there is evidence to the contrary, the presumption does not operate or ceases to operate. This is also in line with the courts decision in R v Epstein 1951 (1) SA 278 (O), where it was held that a presumption operating “in the absence of evidence to the contrary” only requires evidence, not proof, to counteract the presumption. The Childrens Act does not define the word “evidence”, thus any acceptable evidence suffices, regardless of whether it is direct or circumstantial, however, it must raise reasonable doubt.
Section 37 of the Childrens Act states that if a person in proceedings in which paternity of a child is challenged refuses to submit him/herself, or the child, to take blood samples in order to carry out a scientific test to prove the paternity of the child, then a presumption in our law exists in which the failure of such a party to agree to such a test may be used as evidence to prove the contrary. The effect of this section is that it compels a court to warn the person who has refused to have his/her or the childs blood sample taken of the effect which such refusal might have on his/her credibility.
Refusal by mother to submit her and child to testing
In O v O, Friedman JP stated that there is no statutory or common-law power enabling the court to order an adult to allow a blood sample to be taken for the purpose of establishing paternity. Although there is still no such power, Section 37 obliges the court to warn the mother of the consequences of her refusal (perhaps that the man she is accusing of having fathered her child cannot be deemed to have fathered the child in the absence of a blood test). He would then in all probability not be ordered to pay maintenance for the child.

By Bertus Preller
Family Law Attorney
Abrahams and Gross Inc. Cape Town
www.divorcettorney.co.za

The Important Challenges Every Person Have to Know Concerning Internet Movie Resources

Scores of new movies are released each year because movies entertain us in a special way. A man or woman is wants a decent collection of top movie hits. This is a way to sit and relax with friends and family as well as enjoy the pleasure of watching movies. The movie listing will be extensive, because we all like our favorite genres.

DVD disc are flimsy and typically have a short shelf life. People today are looking for movies storage devices to contain their movies and enjoy the movie when they are relaxed. New programs make it easy to download movies. Online movie providers make it as simple as clicking just a few buttons and surfing their database.

Look around on the internet at the various packages before making up your mind. People generally stick with a few leading software packages. Companies have all kinds of packages that will be around to answer any questions you may have. A lot of movie sites include quick burning modules for movies.

It is imperative to recognize the availabilities of robust movie programs that deliver movies that you can download online.Keep in mind that ignoring laws that protect print and media is a violation. Dont get side tracked by choose quality movies from authorized shops or sites.

The benefits that make a particular piece of software superior are the speed and burning rate of the software. the enjoyment of being able to burn top rated movies is deterred if a movie is burned with low quality. A large number of burning software will produce a movie without losing any picture quality in the reproduction, as a result, the final picture looks perfect.

The burn precision and software engine is paramount since some programs can take twenty-five minutes to complete even though some applications burn at lightening speed. It is possible to get an evaluation copy of software before you actually need to purchase it. Most companies let you try their computer applications on your system in which they give you ample time to use the software without paying for it. This allows you to try all of its computer burning features and if the movies burning program runs smoothly.

Look on the internet for genuine ratings and user experiences about movie software to, to uncover any tips and tips to working with the movie application you are pondering. Another great tip is to, go with the software application that makes you feel comfortable that matches your criteria. Getting familiar with any computer software guides will expand your understanding of how to use it effectively. If at any time you are ready to unlock the complete features and buy it, you’ll expect to see those charges in your credit card bill.

Go from beginner to advanced very quickly by researching topics connected to the latest trends happening in the movie software arena. A lot of software users stay updated online due to the reason there are a lot of sites on this topic As a result of using your time wisely to get more facts online, you will come across online sites that let you download free software applications and a website section that shows how many movies they have that they have on file for twenty-four hour access.

People pay according to the billing plan of the website and on how well the website is designed and the tools, software and other benefits such as games. Businesses that are authorized to let you download movies are the ones to join and feature high quality film downloads for your membership at a price-point that seems to be comparable for the services you get.

These measures are what define real internet businesses. An individual can quickly build a robust movie collection very quickly and play them the next time you invite friends over.

What Type of Lawyer Handles Swimming Pool Accidents

Sadly, swimming pool injuries and drowning deaths occur at a very high rate. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that everyday there are at least 10 pool related injuries or deaths that occur. What is even more alarming is the fact that 20 percent of these incidents occur to children under the age of 14, and of that 20 percent, a majority of the events happen to children between the ages of one and four.

In most cases, a personal injury attorney would handle a case surrounding a pool injury or drowning death. However, some of these cases can become complicated and may be in the best interest of the injury victim or their family to consider using a personal injury attorney that is very familiar with, or only handles, pool injuries or drowning claims.

— Injuries Associated with Pool Injuries and Drowning —

There are many different types of injuries that can occur in a swimming area. However, head trauma from falling and brain damage from loss of oxygen while underwater are the most common injuries. People who are submerged under water and become oxygen starved can suffer with one or more of the following issues:

Learning disabilities
Limited brain functions
Loss of use of one or more limbs
Speech problems
Hearing problems
Blindness
Personality changes usually resulting in quick temperedness
Organ damage
Permanent serious brain damage
Death

Additional issues may arise from these types of injuries that are less common based on the individual that suffered the injury.

Many of these injuries require life-long therapy and care. Individuals that have been injured in a swimming pool or hot tub area accident and their families should seek competent legal representation to seek compensation to cover the costs of care.

— Factors That Contribute to Drowning Deaths and Pool Injuries —

Pool areas can be dangerous, especially for children. There are many reasons that a pool injury or drowning can occur. Some of the more common reasons include;

Failure to place a safety cover or fence off the pool area
Failure to keep pool area fence locked
Lack of adult supervision around to pool at all times
Lack of warning signs around the pool area
Failure to provide lifeguards for public swimming areas
Failure to mark the depths correctly in the pool

It should be note that accidents and drownings involving children under four years old occur most often in their own home.

— Pool Safety Tips —

The effects of injuries associated with pool injuries are often suffered for a life time. Taking a few simple precautions may allow you to avoid the tragedy of pool related injuries or accidental drownings.

-If you own a pool, make sure that everyone in your home can swim. You can begin with lessons for children as young as six months.

-Establish pool rules. These rules should include:
oNever swimming without an adult present
oNever swimming alone
oNo diving, even in the deep end of the pool
oNo running around the outside of the pool
oStay away from the pool cover always
oAlways keep pool chemicals locked away

-If your pool is located outside, you will want to have a four foot fence with a gate that can be locked installed around the pool. You may also wish to lock the gate to your backyard. You must take precautions against neighborhood children entering your pool without your knowledge.

-Take a pool safety class and know how to properly perform CPR. This will be very helpful if an accident should occur. In fact, everyone who is old enough in your household should have CPR training.

— The Statute of Limitations —

When you have been injured in a pool related accident, or if your loved one lost their life to an accidental drowning, you must understand that there is a limited amount of time for you to seek compensation.

The Statue of Limitations are laws that are in place that limit the amount of time a person has to seek compensation for a personal injury. These limitations vary from state to state and can be as little as six months from the time of the injury. On average, the Statute of Limitations for seeking compensation for a personal injury is two years.

If you do not file a claim for compensation before the Statute of Limitation expires, you will not be able to seek compensation for your injury and losses. It is important to speak with a personal injury law firm about your rights as soon as possible after an accident occurs so that your rights as a victim are protected.

— Speak to a Lawyer Immediately About Your Rights —

If you or your loved one has been injured in a pool or spa related incident, you may have specific rights to seek compensation for your injuries and losses. You will want to talk to a lawyer who is knowledgeable about these types of cases and their respective injuries. During your initial consultation, it will be explained what rights you have as an injury victim and what types of compensation you are entitled to under your state laws.

Islamic Divorce in New York State

Muslims residing in the State of New York are in a dual situation when it comes to the implementation of family law. On one hand, they are governed by the religious law of Islam, known as Islamic sharia, and on the other hand, the secular family law of the state of New York. To Muslims, the family law of Islam mandates that marriage and divorce among Muslims should be done in accordance with the Islamic sharia, regardless of whether they live in an Islamic or secular country. Civil divorce decrees obtained by secular courts are not recognized by Islamic sharia.

Under Islamic law, a Muslim man may marry a non-Muslim woman, whereas a Muslim woman is prohibited from marrying non-Muslim man. Under these rules, a non-Muslim woman marrying a Muslim man in compliance with Islamic sharia is subject to the rules of Islam in the areas of divorce, child custody and inheritance. In other words, a non-Muslim woman who gets married to a Muslim man in accordance with Islamic sharia, loses custody of her children in case of divorce, or in case the husband dies. Consequently, a non-Muslim woman marrying to a Muslim man is forced, under the rules of Islamic sharia, to surrender custody of her son when he reaches the age of seven, and her daughter at the age of nine. She also prohibited from inheritance. These rules are applied throughout Muslim countries with a system of sharia-based family law in place.

Marriage Contracts in Islamic Sharia
Under the rules of Islamic sharia, the marriage contract should include: (1) names and addresses of the couple; (2) name of the guardian of the bride; (3) names and addresses of two male witnesses; and (4) the amount of mahr, or a promise of money or its equivalent to be given by the husband to the bride. Like any other civil contracts, Islamic marriage contract should be in the form of offer and acceptance by the parties.

Contrary to the popular notion that mahr is dowry; it is not. A dowry is what the wife contributes to her marriage while mahr is an obligation on the husband to pay his future bride. Others call it a gift; it is not a gift either, because mahr is an obligation on the husband and is mandated by the Quran. The Quran calls it sadaq (Quran 4:4). If no stipulation of mahr is provided in the marriage contract, the marriage remains legal and in effect; in such a situation, the “qadi” (judge) will determine the amount of mahr, which remains a property of the wife alone. The amount of mahr can be paid partially: up-front (Arabic, muqaddam), and deferred until divorce or death of the husband (Arabic, muakhar), or it may be prepaid in full before the consummation of the marriage.

Legal Status of the Mahr Provision in Islamic Law
The most important feature of the mahr provision is that one party makes an offer and the other can accept or refuse to accept. It is a financial settlement between the couple in case a divorce occurs or the husband dies. Although, Muslim women do not personally bargain for the mahr agreements, and, in almost all of the divorce cases that I have seen so far, in the Middle East, Europe and the United States, Islamic marriage agreements involving mahr are negotiated by the representative (Arabic Wali) of the bride.

In the State of New York, an Islamic marriage contract involving mahr may be considered premarital agreement for a divorce settlement. In legal terms, this is called a concurrence of wills or meeting of the minds of the future husband and his future wife. This also means that each party from an objective perspective engaged in conduct manifesting their acceptance, and a contract was formed when both parties met such a requirement.

The basic rule is that a premarital contract will be interpreted and enforced in accordance with the law of the state in which it was entered into. Thus an Islamic marriage contract signed in Egypt according to the Egyptian law for example, must be interpreted according to the law of Egypt. The Restatement of the Law Second Conflict of Laws 3d, Chapter 8, Contracts, is clear about the law for the state chosen by the parties to a contract. The text of the Restatement reads: “(1) The law of the state chosen by the parties to govern their contractual rights and duties will be applied if the particular issues is one which the parties could have resolved by an explicit provision in their agreement directed to that issue.”

Looking at both academic and case studies in this area of law, this article points the reader in the direction of the current trends in the treatment of mahr in New York State and to address Islamic family law issues relevant to New York State law and the working of its legal system. The mahr provision in an Islamic marriage contract has been interpreted differently in other states. For more information on treatment of mahr in other states, the individual should seek legal advice.

Interpretation of the Mahr in New York State
Muslim men and women assert their Islamic legal rights in American family courts; as a result, Islamic sharia governing their marriages and divorces becomes an important and complicated part of the American legal landscape. This leads to a discussion of court cases involving Muslim marriage and divorce litigations in the State of New York, as well as whether New York courts will enforce the terms of Muslim marriage contracts, mainly the mahr provision.

New York courts have jurisdiction over divorce cases within its territory, with specific focus on premarital contract structured in accordance with foreign laws. And, various state courts have found no public policy prohibition in enforcing such agreements. In New York, a mahr agreement may be interpreted within the context of a contractual obligation.

In Aziz v. Aziz, the couple entered into a mahr agreement which required the payment of $5,032, with $32 advanced and $5,000 deferred until divorce. The New York court ruled that the contract conformed to New Yorks contract requirements, and that “its secular terms are enforceable as a contractual obligation, notwithstanding that it was entered into as part of a religious ceremony.” (See Aziz v. Aziz, N.Y.S.2d at 124).

In this case, the husband argued that the mahr agreement provided in the Islamic marriage contract could not be enforced because it was a religious document and was not enforceable as a contract. The wife responded by stating that although the mahr is a religious stipulation; its secular terms can be properly enforced by the court. The court agreed with the wife and ordered the husband to pay the deferred mahr. The court found that the mahr agreement complied with the necessary statutory requirements to be recognized and enforceable as a premarital agreement and held that the secular terms of the mahr agreement were “enforceable as a contractual obligation, notwithstanding that it was entered into as part of a religious ceremony.” The court stated that the mahr agreed to by the couple constituted a secular debt of $5,000 and ordered the husband to fulfill the terms of the agreement.

The case was based entirely on another New York of Appeals case of Avitzur v. Avitzur involving a Jewish Ketubah in which a Jewish woman sued for specific performance to force her ex-husband to appear before a Beth Din (Jewish Court). Under Jewish Law, only a man can grant a divorce, or “Get”. Until he does, the woman cannot remarry within the Jewish faith to anybody. Her children will then be considered illegitimate. In order that a “Get” may be obtained, both husband and wife have to appear before the Beth Din. The husband refused to appear, leaving the woman in a state of marital limbo, making her an “agunah.” The New York Court of Appeals found that the Jewish ketubah constituted a valid premarital agreement that could be enforced despite the religious underpinnings of the agreement.

Conclusion
As the second largest religion, and with the number of Muslims immigrating to the United State on the rise, American courts are more frequently looking into Islamic divorce litigations between Muslim couples. Out of respect to Islamic law and culture, American courts attempt to apply certain provisions from Islamic sharia, such as the mahr contract in divorce cases involving Muslim couples. By doing so, American courts risk involving their arguments with gender and economic inequalities between Muslim men and women, leaving Muslim women destitute. The application of mahr agreements in Islamic divorce in the United States prevents women from exercising their rights to equitable distribution of marital assets upon divorce. If the courts need to extend their respect to Islamic law in divorce situations, they should look into whether the wife had a choice in signing the mahr agreement. Muslim women do not personally bargain for the mahr agreements, and, in almost all of the divorce cases that I have seen so far, in the Middle East, Europe and the United States, the Islamic marriage agreements involving mahr are negotiated by the representative (Arabic Wali) of the bride. Other states do not regard the mahr to be a premarital contract. Individuals seeking information on the treatment of mahr by other states should seek legal advice from a competent attorney.

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