High Court rules NZ man doesnt have to pay $212,000 dowry to ex-wife

A New Zealand man does not have to pay a $212,000 dowry to his ex-wife after the High Court ruled United Arab Emirates marriage laws did not apply here.

United Arab Emirates woman Rahla Almarzooqi had her appeal to enforce a $212,095 Islamic Sharia Law marriage dowry her husband signed in 2013 thrown out in the New Zealand High Court on March 18.

Both Almarzooqi and her ex-husband Rafid Salih first met on an online Islamic dating site in 2010 when Almarzooqi was living in Australia and Salih was living in New Zealand.

In 2013, Almarzooqi visited Salih in New Zealand and the pair embarked on a relationship.

In December that year they were married in Dubai in accordance with Islamic/Sharia law.

Their contract of marriage, the Nikah, dictated by an order of the Dubai court, that Salih would pay Almarzooqi a “prompt dowry” of about NZ$12,725at the commencement of the marriage and a “deferred dowry” [the Mahr] of about NZ$212,095 on the earlier of their divorce or his death.

Yet by May 2014, Almarzooqi and Salih had separated after living together in New Zealand for a period.

Almarzooqi returned to Dubai in December 2015 to apply for a divorce which was “properly served” to Salih in New Zealand, according to the High Court judgment.

Salih then “endeavoured to file papers” in response to the divorce application in the Dubai court but they were not accepted because he had to appear in Dubai personally or through a lawyer. Salih refused to do both.

In November 2016, Almarzooqi’s divorce application was granted by the Dubai court and they ordered Salih to pay the “deferred dowry” of about NZ$212,095 as well as alimony and housing support.

A copy of this Dubai judgment was served in New Zealand on Salih on June 29, 2017 and soon after Almarzooqi took her case to the High Court.

In the High court judgement Associate Judge Johnston concluded “the Dubai court did not have jurisdiction [in New Zealand] either because the marriage contract was governed by Sharia law or because Mr Salih had sought to file documentation which had been rejected”.

“In my judgment, Ms Almarzooqi cannot establish on the evidence currently before the Court that the UAE court had jurisdiction — in the particular sense necessary in relation to foreign judgments in personam — to make the ancillary money orders it made in her favour against Mr Salih in this case.”

However the Associate Judge did not accept the claim from Salih that if the Dubai court had have been deemed to have jurisdiction, its judgment would nevertheless be unenforceable “as having been obtained in breach of natural justice, by fraud and because its enforcement would be against public policy”.

“New Zealand courts have not yet — as far as I am aware — enforced a foreign judgment such as this concerning Islamic traditions around marriage and divorce,” Associate Judge Johnston wrote in his judgment.

“However, the English courts certainly have, and I can see no reason why New Zealand courts would not enforce such a judgment. New Zealand places a high value on cultural and religious autonomy. Recognising and enforcing a judgment such as this would reflect this commitment.”

Almarzooqi then appealed the decision in the Court of Appeal.

In assessing this judgment from Associate Judge Johnston, the Court of Appeal clarified that if Johnston had found the Dubai court had jurisdiction in New Zealand he would have granted Almarzooqi’s common law application for enforcement of the Dubai judgment requiring Salih to pay the NZ$212,095″deferred dowry”.

But in the High Court judgment, Associate Judge Johnston said any judgment under a foreign court must have jurisdiction under New Zealand law to be enforceable.

“A foreign judgment will not be recognised in New Zealand unless the foreign court had jurisdiction,” Johnston said.

“However, it is not sufficient that the foreign judgment had jurisdiction under its own rules; the foreign court must have had jurisdiction of a kind recognised by New Zealand’s private international law rules as sufficient to give rise to an obligation to comply with the judgment that will be recognised by the New Zealand court.”

The Court of Appeal therefore agreed with High Court Associate Judge Johnston that Salih did not have to pay the NZ$212,095 “deferred dowry” Mahr.

Almarzooqi’s Court of Appeal case was dismissed.

Almarzooqi and Salih both currently live in New Zealand. Almarzooqi is a citizen of the United Arab Emirates and has residency status in New Zealand. Salih is an Iranian and New Zealand citizen.

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