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October 05, 2013
What are the main jurisdictional requirements for the institution of proceedings concerning divorce, property and children?
There are several exceptions, but in general, the Courts of First Instance (the lowest tier of court) has jurisdiction over family cases filed against citizens or foreigners who are domiciled or resident in the UAE (following Article 5 of Personal Status Law). In addition, a citizen or foreigner may commence a divorce in the UAE even if their spouse resides abroad as per Article 6 of the UAE Personal Status Law and Article 20 of the Civil Procedure Law.
Domicile and Habitual Residence
Explain the concepts of domicile and habitual residence as they apply to the jurisdiction concerning divorce, finances and children.
Domicile is defined as a place where an individual resides and sees their long-term home to be. Residence can be more temporary than domicile. In practice, a party would be seen to be domiciled or resident in the UAE for jurisdiction purposes, if they hold a residence visa (or similar) for the UAE.
Conflict of Law / Applicable Law to Be Applied
What happens when one party applies to stay proceedings in favour of a foreign jurisdiction? What factors will the local court take into account when determining forum issues?
The UAE courts will apply a ‘first in time’ rule but only in respect of concluded cases. Therefore, one party can apply to stay proceedings issued within the UAE courts if they can prove that a final judgment has been issued within their proceedings from a court in another jurisdiction.
The above information might not apply if both parties are non-muslim. Starting from the 1st of February 2023, UAE issued specific family law to be applied between non-muslim expatriate residents in case none of them wanted to apply his/her home country's law in the UAE. To know more information about this law, please feel free to click this link.