Who is entitled to the contents of the registry of furniture in the event of khul'?
Is it necessary for a husband who divorces his wife through khul' to relinquish his right to the contents of the registry of furniture which it is considered part of the dowry?
The opinion implemented for fatwa and acted upon in Egyptian courts is as follows:
Based on the opinion of some scholars, a woman who is divorced through khul' [divorce initiated by the wife in return for compensating the husband] must return the dowry she received from her husband and relinquish her legal financial rights. The purport of this is to alleviate the husband's financial burdens resulting from his wife's unilateral request for separation.
The financial legal rights waived by the wife in the event ofkhul'
Article 20 of Law no. 1 /2000 states,
"Both spouses may mutually consent to khul'. If not, the wife may file for khul' by waiving all her legal financial rights and returning the dowry he gave her, and the court orders for her divorce."
In marriage, a man pays a dowry (the dowry paid in advance as well as the deferred part of it) in exchange for sexual intercourse with his wife and in return for submitting herself to him. Therefore inkhul', a woman must return to her husband anything which has been established as a 'dowry'. Moreover, she must waive her right to alimony and waiting period expenses. The legal objective in regulating khul' is to relieve a woman from staying in a marriage she loathes while at the same time alleviating the husband of obligations and expenses. However, the legal financial rights that are waived by khul' do not include a woman's right to custody or child support. Egyptian lawmakers strived to select the rulings derived from Islamic jurisprudence that best strike a gender equity balance. These include compensation in exchange for khul' (though it was left unconditional by scholars) and, protecting women from potential financial exploitation by their husbands by limiting this compensation to only those legal financial rights that are established by virtue of the marriage contract. This was also meant to prevent arbitrary compensations demanded by husbands that may undermine the possibility of khul'. On the other hand, the law prevents women from taking unwarranted advantage of khul' to expropriate their husband's wealth, burdening them with financial obligations which, at times, are exaggerated.
The registry of furniture
The prevailing apparent formula of the registry of furniture places a wife's right to the items listed in the registry under her husband's trust. Consequently, if a woman buys her household furnishings with the advanced part of her dowry, whether she received it in cash or in the form of furnishings provided by the husband, she is exclusively entitled to it after consummation of the marriage and she is entitled to half of it if the marriage was not consummated. However, it is usually the case that these items furnish the matrimonial house which the husband either owns or leases; they are therefore effectually in his possession. In an age when religious adherence has been significantly diminished and husbands forfeit spousal rights, it has become a social necessity to draw up a list containing the furnishings in the matrimonial home to guarantee a woman's right to these items in the event of disputes. Many people draw up this list which they equate with a civil right that is tantamount to a debt owed by the husband to his wife. However, in many instances, a woman may exploit this right by falsely denying that the registry constitutes her dower. In many instances, the articles included in the registry are the real dower paid by the husband and the dower registered in the marriage contract is merely fictitious. People often resort to this practice to pay the nominal registration fee upon the sum documented in the contract.
Both spouses may contribute towards buying the articles listed in the registry and in some cases it is the wife who buys the entire furnishings with her own money or with her family's help. The ruling depends on these details. If the husband claims that all or some of the articles listed in the registry constitutes the dower and it is proved, through incontrovertible evidence or the testimony of witnesses, that his allegations are true, then the wife must return these items to her husband based on the implemented opinion for both fatwa and law. This is based on the fact that the registry and its contents are no longer considered a debt owed by the husband to his wife, but compensation in exchange of sexual intercourse and in return for the wife submitting herself to her husband. In this sense, the registry is a dower that must be returned to the husband. But, if the court cannot establish that the items in the registry constitute all or part of the dower, then they are considered the wife's exclusive right, regardless of whether she is divorced through khul' , and consequently she is not obliged to return them to the husband.
Based on the above, the ruling that the registry of household furnishings constitutes all or part of the dowry is left to the discretion of the judge whose decision is based on the evidences and documents before him. If it is proved that all or part of the contents of the registry of furniture constitutes the dowry, he will judge in the husband's favor.
Allah the Almighty knows best.