The issue of dowries in divorce is one which we come across often. There are a number of questions that clients often ask and in the article below we will aim to answer some of them.
Can a wife claim back her dowry after divorce?
The short answer is that it may be possible to claim back the dowry after a divorce, under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.
The biggest problem the wife often has is proving that a dowry was given. The wife must prove that on the balance of probabilities she was given a dowry and what it consisted of. This can be a challenge, but if she has kept receipts or has photographs it will all her in her claim. If jewellery receipts have been lost, it may be worth obtaining a professional valuation of any jewellery to help in the case.
Can the return of a dowry be negotiated?
Once the divorce is finalised, the wife may want to negotiate the return of her dowry. If these negotiations fail, there is the chance that the issue needs to be resolved in Court. A Judge can make an order for the transfer of the dowry if it is still in the husband’s possession, or of a lump sum if it has been disposed of. Your solicitor will be able to advise you on the best way to manage any negotiations.
Is the return of a dowry specified in the Law?
It is important to realise that there is no specific law in England and Wales that deals with the settlement of dowry disputes. However, the English civil courts can award the dowry in what is known as financial remedy proceedings.
What legal cases relate to the return of a dowry after divorce?
There are several important cases which set out guidance in relation to dowries and the law. In one case, it was agreed that a judge should bear in mind the primary cultural factors – i.e. they should not ignore the difference between what a wife might anticipate from a decision made in England as opposed to one made in another jurisdiction.
In another case relating to a Muslim marriage, where the question was whether a dowry should be returned, it was found that as a matter of sharia law that the gifts given by the husband’s family were non-returnable and that the dowry was still payable to the wife by the husband.
Probably the most significant case related to the claim of a wife of £1,400 as the sterling equivalent of the deferred dowry specified in the Islamic marriage contract. The wife’s claim was upheld on the basis that it was a contractual obligation.
The area of how a dowry is treated during and after a divorce is complex, and you should take professional advice before you take any actions. If you have any questions on dowries and divorce please speak to our specialist solicitor, Layla Babadi who will be able to answer any questions you may have.