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April 03, 2016
Most Women Seeking Divorce Have 3 Priorities:
Following the issuance of the new Civil Personal Status Law for the non-Muslims in the country, these three factors have come to be determined separately for the Muslim and non-Muslim populations of the UAE.
The new law differs vividly from the UAE Personal Status Law of 2008, and also gives the parties the option to apply the laws of their home country in case they do not want to be governed by the new law. Meanwhile, the UAE Personal Status Law continues to apply to Muslims living in the UAE.
Under the UAE Personal Status Law, once the No Objection Certificate (NOC) is received from the Family Guidance Committee to file the case, the claimant can proceed to court. In court, the woman is usually asked to produce witnesses who can testify to the reasons she wants a divorce. The witnesses can be 2 men or 1 man and 2 women. These witnesses will have to explain to the court that the woman is in an unhappy marriage due to such reasons and based on her suffering, she is seeking a divorce.
There are no exact questions that are asked of the witnesses. They should be aware of the personal and family matters of the claimant and should be able to answer all questions put to them on how they know or believe that family life between the couple is difficult, unhappy and hence not possible.
For those who do not speak Arabic, a translator is provided by the court to listen to the witness statements. If the woman is unable to bring any witnesses, the divorce process can still go ahead. What the judge will try to ascertain from the witness statements is that the married life of the claimant is not successful or happy.
As for the Civil Personal Status Law, there is no need to go through the Family Guidance Committee for reconciliation, and the parties can approach the courts directly for obtaining the divorce. Moreover, the new law has introduced the concept of ‘no-fault divorce’, which essentially implies that the parties need not provide any reason to divorce their spouses.
Custody is the most sensitive and emotional subject for the claimant, and in this case particularly the woman. As far as custody is concerned, the UAE Personal Status Law states that it should be with the mother until the male child is 11 years old and the female child is 13 years old. However, this general rule has many exceptions, and it is safe to say that the court looks for the betterment of the child or children involved.
Should it be in the best interest of the child to remain with the mother even after these ages described above, the court might extend the custody of the children in the favor of the mother. Should the court feel even before these ages that the child is better off with the other parent and it’s in the child's best interest, the decision can be handed down against the mother.
However, for this, the burden of proof to show that the mother is unfit is very high and in most cases, the child remains with the mother. When the child reaches the above age, custody does not automatically pass to the father, he has to make a claim and file for the custody of the child. If he does not, he is assumed to accept that the mother should continue the custody of the child.
Whereas, parents under the UAE Civil Personal Status are granted custody on an equal basis irrespective of the child’s age and gender, meaning that they will be responsible for contributing to the upbringing of the child equally. However, if one parent feels that giving custody to the other parent might be dangerous, or involve ineligibility or failure to meet the needs on his/her part, then the parent can move an application to the court to grant him/her sole custody of the child. The court has the discretion to decide in this matter, and will always take into account the best interests of the child.
When it comes to claiming financial support from the husband, the most important aspect of this is to prove the husband's income. The income of the husband shall determine the amount of the maintenance paid towards the children and the one-off lump sum amount to be paid to the wife. Many people, while claiming for these amounts, focus purely on the amount claimed and not the income, resulting in a weak claim and lower chances of success. The basis for any settlement decided by the court is the income and that should remain the focus for all such proceedings.
The UAE Personal Status Law allows the wife to demand any unpaid maintenance, or to claim the reimbursement of any amounts paid towards her living or the children by her for up to 3 years back-dated. The husband and father are liable to pay towards all expenses of his wife and children regardless of the woman's financial standing and income.
On the other hand, the UAE Civil Personal Status Law lays down that a divorced woman can apply to the court to receive alimony from the ex-husband, and if the same had not been decided previously between the parties, it will be left to the judge to accept the application and evaluate the alimony based on several factors, such as the age of the wife, number of years of marriage, the financial status of the spouses, who contributed towards the divorce etc. The wife is entitled to receive the alimony as long as she does not marry another man, or until she has custody of the kids.
The father is responsible for bearing the costs of the children while they are in the mother’s custody, for up to two years, after which it may be left to the court to decide. Also, the mother can apply for the alimony amount to be revised every year or according to the change in circumstances, and the court shall decide the same.
While you may be informed of your rights post-divorce, it is always better to seek the advice of a family lawyer in such matters, since there may arise complications that initially you were not aware of. In such situations, an experienced family lawyer will be able to guide you and help you in claiming your rights to the maximum extent.
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.