In a recent case involving a premarital agreement dispute before the Supreme Court of Texas, the court granted conditional relief for mandamus proceedings after the lower court stayed proceedings pending arbitration and denied the wife’s request for mandamus relief. The couple was married in 2008, and in the process of their marriage, they both signed a document entitled “Islamic Pre-Nuptial Agreement” providing that conflicts arising between the parties would be resolved according to Islamic law in a Muslim court or a three-person panel. In 2021, the wife sued for divorce and the husband moved to enforce the agreement. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Texas conditionally granted the wife’s petition for a writ of mandamus, directing the trial court to withdraw its order referring the two parties to arbitration and to conduct further court proceedings.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, the two parties were married in 2008. In connection with their marriage, they signed two documents, titled “Marriage Contract” and an “Islamic Pre-Nuptial Agreement.” The “Islamic Pre-Nuptial Agreement” states that both parties confirm their “belief that Islam . . . is binding on them in all spheres of life.” Additionally, the agreement states “any conflict which may arise between the husband and the wife will be resolved according to the Qur’an, Sunnah, and Islamic Law in a Muslim court, or in its absence by a Fiqh Panel.” The agreement goes into further detail explaining how the panel is to be chosen, and that any decision by the Fiqh Panel would be binding.
Despite both parties signing the agreement, the wife alleges that she was not aware of its contents, claiming that she did not even know of the existence of the agreement until they began experiencing marital difficulties in 2020. At this point, she states that she learned she had been ’defrauded” into signing the agreement, and she had believed that the “Islamic Pre-Nuptial Agreement” had merely been a second copy of the “Marriage Contract” document that she had signed.
On appeal, the wife seeking mandamus relief from the Supreme Court of Texas argued that the trial court was statutorily required to hear and determine her challenges to the validity of the agreement and enforceability before referring the parties’ disputes to arbitration. The Supreme Court of Texas considered and ultimately agreed with her argument, finding that the trial court erred in ordering arbitration without first determining the validity and enforceability of the agreement between the parties containing the arbitration clause. This resulted in significant delays in reaching a resolution of the child custody and support issues that the two parties first sought to address through temporary orders over a year ago. Given that the trial court stayed all proceedings pending arbitration, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that an eventual appeal from a final judgment would be an inadequate remedy. Subsequently, the Supreme Court of Texas conditionally granted the wife’s petition for a writ of mandamus, directing the lower court to withdraw its order for arbitration.
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