The agonies of trans-national Shariah divorce

When you marry an Iranian individual and they don’t respect Canadian laws, Canadians can lose everything as I have. I’ve lost all my assets because my husband doesn’t respect his children’s needs, Canadian laws, or the fact he married us in Canada and we’ve never been to Iran. His children are still struggling to find their way from our losses, all from the actions of their father.  I wish he understood what he has done to them.Canadian lawyers don’t have a clue how to deal with transnational marriages and I am held in limbo without anyone to ask for guidance. When we got married, my husband was a refugee from Iran with Canadian citizenship. He was able to renew his citizenship with Iran and so far has been able to avoid Canadian law. Click  here to read the full article or an excerpt below.

 

One B.C. Supreme Court divorce case, between Shadi Delvarani and Amir Delvarani, hinged on an estimated $750,000 in gold coins minted by the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

After 26 days in court listening to endless “gross exaggeration and hyperbole,” Justice Robert Powers declared he could not believe the wife was actually promised the 3,000 gold coins as a dowry.

The ex-husband, the judge said, was never worth nearly that much and, as a result, it wouldn’t be “fair” under the Family Relations Act to demand he come up with such an amount.

In another B.C. Supreme Court dispute between Ossama Aziz and Huwayda Al-Masri, family members battled over whether the husband had really committed in the Middle East to giving a dowry of 570 grams of gold (worth roughly $30,000).

While Justice Arne Silverman acknowledged Jordanian Shariah might make dowry rules clear, he found no evidence, under Canadian law, that a bona fide legal contract ever existed between the two.

When separating immigrant women and men ask family lawyer Azhra Jenab why their divorces can’t follow the rules of their old country, Jenab has to tell them: “Because we’re in Canada, now.

Dowry conflicts are only one of the hitches, albeit often the major one, in trans-national divorces.The B.C. judges were guided in part by a precedent-setting Supreme Court of Canada case involving a traditional Orthodox Jewish divorce, which concluded that Canadian courts “may not use their secular power” to sanction a religious tradition.

Under Canadian family law, Jenab said, the key guidelines are that husbands or wives can separate whenever they choose and the family’s shared property and assets are to be distributed equally.

Even though Jenab believes the stigma against divorce is declining in Islamic and other patriarchal cultures, she said the wife is still generally expected to ask for a divorce and the husband has the authority to give it or not.

Under Canadian family law, when a resistant husband tries to tell his wife she can’t leave him, Jenab has had to clarify: “I hate to break it to you, but you can’t do that.”

Property rights are also often not equal in many Muslim countries, where males are favoured.

Trans-national divorces, as a result, are often complicated when spouses work, or hold property, in their country of origin. “That makes the fair division of property hard to enforce.”

Many of Jenab’s clients, women and men, end up wanting both the benefits of Canada’s relatively equal family law and the advantages of their traditional religious culture.

They’re often stunned or angry, she said, when they learn Canadian family law — including the ideal of parents sharing joint custody of children — doesn’t line up with their religious customs.

“It’s difficult to see families struggle as they move out of their marriages, especially the children,” Jenab said. “That’s why I try to talk everyone down from taking a scorched-earth approach.”

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