In Iraq, the number of marriages outside of court are decreasing overall, however they are still common. They occur for a variety of reasons, including a lack of access to the formal court system due to financial, social, tribal, traditional, or family reasons. Continued conflicts and displacement issues have added additional barriers to families access to the courts to register marriages. Unregistered marriages can lead to a number of issues for families and communities, as the marriage remains unrecognized by the authorities meaning that women and children are not able to access the legal rights afforded to them under Iraqi Law. These rights relate to custody, alimony, child marriage, inheritance, pensions, property rights among others.
What is a marriage contract?
It is an official document issued by the Personal Status Court to document the marriage that occurred, and that was agreed between the two parties (wife and husband).
The marriage contract can be obtained in two ways:
- Before a competent court in the presence of both spouses.
- The contract can be issued by religious leaders, which means it is concluded outside of the court but then is ratified in front of the court.
In this article, a light will be shed on clarifying marriage contracts outside of courts.
Marriage contracts outside courts
A marriage outside the court means that the marriage has not been officially registered by the Personal Status Courts under Iraqi law. It is a marriage that has most likely just been supported by religious leaders who checks that it fulfills the conditions of marriage under Islamic Law (Sharia). These contracts bestows only Islamic rights for the spouses, but because they are not registered the wife and husband are not eligible for any rights under Iraqi law.
What departments or authorities responsible of procedures for marriage contracts outside courts?
The responsible authority or departments concerned with the procedures of the marriage contract outside of courts is the Personal Status Court, the Investigation Court, the Police station, the Misdemeanor Court, and the Personal Status Directorate.
Why do we need to ratify marriage contracts that occur outside of courts?
It is important to register or ratify the marriage contract that was not registered in court because:
- To guarantee the legal rights of both parties but particularly the wife, according to the provisions of the Personal Status Law No. 188 of 1959 amended. The wife is afforded a number of rights under this law and without a marriage contract, they cannot be enforced. These rights include: the right to alimony, inheritance, and the right to proof of lineage.
- To prove the proportions of children in the future and the obtaining the legal personal documents. To prove the legal rights to the children including inheritance, future voting rights and family land/property rights, they can travel overseas, and so they can access basic services including educational and health services.
The documents required to ratify marriage contracts outside courts
- Personal documents of both, the husband and the wife. This should be the unified national card, if available. But if not, the Personal Statues ID card, Iraqi citizenship, and residence card.
- The marriage contract outside the courts.
- Photographs for the husband and wife.
- Two witnesses.
The procedures to ratify marriage contracts outside courts
- Filing a ratifying lawsuit before the Personal Status Court.
- The referral of the husband and wife and their documents to the investigation court. The husband only will be presented as the perpetrator, while the wife is presented as a witness. Then both of them will be referred to the Misdemeanor Court if the date of the marriage is after the amnesty law which is issued on January 1st, 2008.
- The Misdemeanor Court will order a fine of 50,000 IQD and refer the husband and wife to the Personal Status Court to certify the marriage contract outside the courts or issue a new contract.
- Legal fees for ratifying the marriage contract range from 1,000 IQD to 5,000 IQD with a stamp fee.
Are there any legal consequences of not registering and ratifying the marriage contract at a competent court?
The legal penalty for a marriage that is conducted outside of a court is a fine ranging from 250,000 - 300,000 IQD, or imprisonment for 6 months with a suspended sentence. The penalties exist for social reasons, to deter individuals from entering into marriage without complying with legal obligations, and to protect the rights of either party, particularly the women.
If you need legal assistance, please contact IRC’s Feedback And Response Mechanism FARM number (+964 0751 735 4229), or the Iraq Information Center free of charge number 80069999
Iraqi Personal Status Law No. 188 of 1959 amended. Click here.