Divorce & Separation in the UAE

Among the states that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the UAE is near the top of the list when it comes to divorces. Some 1,200 divorces occurred in Dubai alone in 2012, a number that accounts for both native Emiratis and expats. And if trends continue, this number is only going to increase.

So with the amount of divorce that does occur, it’s important to have a clear understanding of both the why and the now what of leaving your partner. This article addresses these questions, and also provides some much needed clarity on the subject of divorce in the UAE.

Should an expat seek a divorce in the UAE?

The answer to this is: it depends. Expats have a legal right to divorce either in their home country or in the UAE, as defined by your choice of jurisdiction. “Forum Shopping” is a term used to locate a jurisdiction that you feel will grant a positive end result from the divorce, both in terms of finances and simplicity. It is highly recommended that you research your options before allowing a court to take up your divorce.

Another important consideration is that it isn’t nearly as difficult to attain a divorce in your home country as you imagine. In fact, a couple can, in most cases, divorce without ever returning to their country of origin. This of course will depend on how your home country manages divorces. Some will require both parties to return. Others may only need the proper documentation signed and sent in.

Lastly, it’s important to note that a non-Muslim couple can request a ruling based on laws within the couple’s country of origin. However, that ruling may be subject to certain additions based on Sharia Law. These additions usually pertain to child custody, child support, and asset division. A UAE judge will have the ultimate word on whether a couple can divorce or not, but if a divorce isn’t granted by one judge, it may be possible to find another that is more sympathetic.

Always consult a divorce attorney before proceeding with a divorce in the UAE. This will save you immense amounts of time and money in the long run.

What if a couple elects to divorce in the UAE?

Divorce in the UAE has its perks, and may actually be more favorable than returning to your country of origin.

Below are some of the major reasons why couples elect to divorce in the United Arab Emirates:

  • Many divorces are almost immediate as long as both parties are desirous of a similar outcome.
  • The cost of divorce is lower than in many countries, and in most cases it is a one-time fixed cost for the proper legal work to be carried out.
  • For the most part, assets are divided based on who owned what prior to the marriage. A couple should discuss this prior to ensure a long divorce doesn’t occur.
  • A reconciliation committee may sound daunting, but it’s a common option used by UAE courts to ensure the entire divorce proceeds smoothly, especially if children are in the equation.
  • While all proceedings occur in the country’s native language of Arabic, all law firms and courts will allow an interpreter to assist the couple, which ensures the whole process is easily understood.

How does a couple begin the filing process?

Before a couple begins the divorce process, they must consider their reasoning behind doing so. Courts within the UAE may be more progressive than in other areas of the Gulf Coast, but they still consider divorce to be a serious concern, and will only allow if all other means of reconciliation have been exhausted.

Once a couple has identified a divorce attorney and made plans, they can then register for the divorce in the Dubai courts, within the Moral and Family Guidance Section. The couple will be assigned a counselor, and in the event that one or both parties are still interested in the divorce, the case will be moved to the court.

Should the judge visit your case and agree that no common ground can be identified, a divorce will be granted.

Do you require advice or help in this matter? Speak to one of our recommended Divorce Experts. All information is totally confidential 

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Some important considerations for Muslim couples

A Muslim couple that agrees to the divorce under Sharia Law must understand the concept of Iddat. With Iddat, the husband can request that his wife reunite with him, but only up to a period of three months. Once this three month period has expired, and both parties are still intent upon the divorce, then no further inquiries will be made for them to reunite.

How are custodial rights granted in the UAE after a divorce?

This is a hot topic no matter what country a couple attempts to divorce in. Within the UAE, a few critical factors will determine who receives the children, and under what terms they are received. This includes the religion of each parent, the income of each parent, the location where each parent currently resides, and whether or not the mother will remarry. In some cases, if a mother does not remarry, or if she is found “incompetent” by the court, her custody could be taken from her completely. This can also occur if the father is a Muslim and the mother isn’t.

Once children have reached the age of 7 (for boys) or 9 (for girls), then the child can make a decision on which parent they’d like to stay with. This is called the “age of discretion” by UAE courts.

A few final notes are worth mentioning about custodial rights within the UAE. First, one parent may convince the court to issue a travel ban on a child to keep him or her within the country. Secondly, a mother cannot leave the country with the child during the divorce process, unless she has consent from the father to do so (and even then, it must be written consent.) Lastly, it is the court’s ultimate decision whether the mother can leave with her child. This will be up to whether or not the court believes that the child’s education is at stake, or whether or not the move is a serious burden upon the father for seeing his children.

The divorce process can be long and difficult, and what we’ve mentioned here is just barely touching the surface of possible divorce outcomes. If you’d like to speak with a divorce expert, we recommend contacting Alderson & Associates, who operate within the country, and provide an hour consultation free of charge.

Useful Info & Links

Family consultation requests – Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Dept.

Family consultation requests – Ministry of Social Affairs

Following up cases related to marriage and divorce – Dubai Courts

List of law offices in Dubai – Dubai Courts
Reconciliation between spouses -Dubai.ae

Legal procedures for divorce – Dubai.ae

Settlements after divorce- Dubai.ae
Dubai Personal Status Courts Complex to be ready in 2013 – The National

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