What Every Expat Should Know About Guardianship in the UAE
If you currently reside in the UAE as an expat, and your family is also in the country with you, then it’s absolutely critical that you understand the countries guardianship laws.
The stakes are incredibly high. Imagine, for instance, that you (the husband) should pass away here in the UAE without a last will and testament designating who will take guardianship over your children in the event of your death. In a case like this, Sharia Law will pass judgment over who receives the children. And contrary to what you might believe, this is not always the mother of the children.
The death of a father OR mother could have dramatic implications for the family.
UAE law does not distinguish between Muslim or non-Muslim families. Nor are you exempt as an expatriate that is currently living within the country. The only defense an expat has in this regard is a last will and testament, which will negate the state’s power to decide on the fate of the children involved.
UAE courts routinely hear custody cases in the event of a father’s death. Cases are decided by Sharia Law if a will is not available. In the event that a case is decided by Sharia Law, guardianship of the children will either be given to the father’s side of the family, or to the mother if the mother chooses to never marry again.
It’s not just the loss of the father that can cause problems. Should the mother pass away, the father is not necessarily guaranteed custody. According to Sharia Law, a woman must be available in the home to care for the children. A father’s children could conceivably be sent to a female figure on either side of the family, whether it’s the mother’s mother, the father’s mother, or a sister on either side of the family.
What happens if both the mother and father should pass away?
It’s important to note that if both parents should pass away, the children of those parents will not necessarily be awarded to their family or relations. Without a specified guardian, a child of a certain age could very well become a ward of the state. Children could become separated and sent to live with families native to the UAE. Should the family attempt to have these children returned, the legal proceedings are likely to take months, if not years.
What expats can do to avoid this scenario.
As we noted earlier, a UAE court will only step in if no will is available that names a guardian of the children. For this reason we highly recommend creating a will as soon as possible. The will can name more than one guardian in the even that both the mother and father pass away. This could be a family member or friend outside of the country or inside. Should you elect to name someone outside of the UAE, he or she may need time to acquire a visa and make it into the country. During this time your children will not have a guardian present, which could be difficult on them.
We recommend appointing a temporary guardian within the UAE, which will give your primary a guardian time to acquire the necessary documentation (and ensure that your children aren’t placed in government custody in the meantime). A Temporary Guardianship Document, which costs roughly Dh 2,000, will let you name someone in-country to take custody of your children in the event of both parent’s deaths.
We cannot state this enough: having the proper will in place is critical for expats, especially if their families are residing in the UAE with them. If you have any questions about how guardianship is managed in the UAE, please don’t hesitate to contact a specialist at the UAE Money Expert.
Speak with a legal expert that understands the will writing process. UAE Money Expert recommends—especially in the case of expats—that you speak with an expert before writing up your will. Someone who understands the process can help explain how to structure your finances, organize beneficiaries, and create a list of Assets and Liabilities.
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