Legal Language Translation and Enforcing a Foreign Marriage Contract

We’ve blogged about legal interpretation and translation services of Islamic marriage contracts. In a recent – and rather odd – case, a Virginia court enforced a Iranian marriage contract and ordered the husband to pay his wife 514 gold coins. In its ruling, the court construed the contract as a premarital contract and held it both valid and enforceable. What is particularly interesting in this case is the level of foreign language translation that was involved. First there was the issue of the premarital contract. Before the court could come to this conclusion, evidence had to be presented attesting to this fact.

And as the contract and evidence were in Persian, evidence as to the validity of the foreign language translation was also required. Second, in this case the wife testified as her own expert on Iranian and Islamic law, providing a foreign language translation – and explanation – to the court. According to her, she was owed 514 gold coins as the price of her marriage and that according to the foreign language translation of the law, she could demand them at any time. Based on this evidence, the court determined that a enforceable contract existed.

Up Next: Language Translation and International Family Law after Abbott v. Abbott