California Court of Appeals, Second District, Third Division
In re the Marriage of SUMMER and ROBERT TURFE.
ROBERT TURFE, Appellant. SUMMER TURFE, Respondent,
from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County,
Super. Ct. No. BD561532 Christine Byrd and Michael E.
Whitaker, Judges. Affirmed.
Offices of Marjorie G. Fuller and Marjorie G. Fuller; Freid
and Goldsman and Marci R. Levine; Turfe Law and Edward M.
Turfe for Appellant.
Kessler Amado for Respondent.
Turfe (husband) appeals a judgment of dissolution of marriage
as to status only. The judgment terminated his marriage to
Summer Turfe (wife) and reserved jurisdiction over all other
contends the trial court erred in denying his request for an
annulment. He asserts wife defrauded him by falsely promising
at the time of the marriage to be bound by the “mahr
agreement” that they entered into in accordance with
Islamic law. The parties' mahr agreement
provided that wife would receive a copy of the Quran in the
event of a divorce. The parties disagree as to whether the
mahr agreement precluded wife from obtaining any other
property in the event of a divorce, and the expert testimony
at trial was in conflict with respect to the proper
interpretation of the mahr agreement.
a bifurcated trial, the trial court concluded that it was not
persuaded by clear and convincing evidence that wife had
intentionally misrepresented her intention to be bound by the
mahr agreement in order to induce husband to enter into the
marriage. Instead, the trial court found that the parties
simply had different interpretations of the mahr agreement,
which they did not discuss with one another, and that husband
made the assumption that wife shared his interpretation of
conclude substantial evidence supports the trial court's
determination, and we therefore uphold the trial court's
decision which denied husband's request for an annulment
based on fraud, and instead, entered a judgment of
dissolution of marriage.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
parties were married in 2000. Their first child was born in
2002, and their second child was born in 2005.
March 2012, wife filed a petition for marital dissolution.
2012, husband filed a response to the petition, claiming as
his separate property his post-separation earnings and
accumulations,  as well as other separate property
assets not yet known. He also pled “[t]here are
community and quasi-community assets and obligations of the
parties, the exact nature and extent of which are unknown to
[him] at the present time.”
January 2014, husband filed an amended response to the
petition, requesting an annulment of the marriage based on
fraud, and requesting specific performance of the mahr
agreement. Husband's amended response denied the
existence of any community property and requested that all
his earnings and accumulations during the purported marriage
be confirmed as his separate property.
Bifurcated trial on the issues of nullity of marriage and
validity and enforceability of the mahr agreement as a
matter proceeded to a bifurcated trial on the issues of
whether husband was entitled to an annulment, and whether the
mahr agreement was a valid and enforceable premarital
agreement that would limit the property to which wife would
be entitled in the event of a divorce.
seeking an annulment, husband asserted that wife fraudulently
induced him to enter into the marriage by pretending to
accept the mahr agreement when, in fact, she never intended
to be bound by it. Husband testified that, as a devout
Muslim, he would never have married wife if he had known that
she considered the mahr agreement to be purely symbolic and
that she never intended to be bound by it in the event of
focus of the trial was Exhibit 300, a document signed by the
parties at the time of marriage. The document was a form
agreement prepared by the Islamic Center of America in
Detroit, Michigan, where the parties were married. The form
was primarily in Arabic and provided spaces for information
to be entered, such as the names of the bride and groom, the
names of their parents, and the name of the imam performing
the marriage ceremony. The form was filled in by an imam of
the Islamic Center and was signed by each of the parties. The
title of the document was translated from Arabic to English
as “Marriage Certificate.” At issue was the
section entitled “Dowry” (as translated from
Arabic to English). This portion of the marriage certificate
is referred to as the mahr agreement. The certified
translation of the subject mahr agreement stated as follows:
“5 Golden coins paid in advance and a copy of Quran
parties agreed that the mahr agreement is an essential
element of an Islamic marriage, but disagreed as to its
meaning and significance. Wife contended the mahr agreement
is a traditional part of the wedding ceremony and that its
terms are merely symbolic. Husband's position was that
the mahr agreement is an enforceable contract ...