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family law


January 07, 2016

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What is the Divorce Process for a Muslim Couple?

Question: What is the divorce process for a Muslim couple? What is involved when a Muslim couple get divorced in the UAE?

Answer: For Muslims in the UAE, divorce is the cancelling of the valid contract of marriage between the parties. The divorce can be initiated by the husband or by the wife, provided her husband gave her the right to do so (isma) in the marriage contract. If the wife is not given the right to divorce the husband within her marriage contract, she may still do so for reasons of harm. The definition of harm is wide ranging.

Question: What are the methods of divorce?

Answer: There are two methods of divorce:

1. For the Muslim husband, the first is by pronouncing the "talaq" ("I divorce you" in Arabic). The husband or wife (if she has isma) must say or write "I divorce you" or talaq in the presence of a witness. For Muslims, this is a religiously valid method of divorce. However, for the divorce to be legally recognised, it should be registered with the court - this allows documentary evidence of the divorce to be relied upon in court in the future. (Article 106 Personal Status Law states "divorce is considered valid when... the judge authenticates it".) If there is a dispute as to whether the talaq was pronounced, the witness would be able to give evidence in court. There are financial implications for a spouse who commences a divorce by pronouncing the talaq without the consent of their spouse.

2. The second method, for Muslims with a non-Muslim wife or non-Muslim husband, of obtaining a divorce is by application to the court for termination of the marriage by judgment. The applicant will issue a divorce case and the parties will be referred to the Family Guidance Committee, which forms part of the court. Later, if they fail to settle, they will issue a no-objection letter to file a family case or a personal status case.

What types of divorce exist under Sharia?

There are two types of divorce - revocable and irrevocable. The revocable divorce will allow the parties to maintain a valid marriage, until the conclusion of the waiting period of three months. After this period, if they wish to reconcile, they must do so by entering into a new marriage contract.

The irrevocable divorce ends the marriage as soon as it has happened. There are two types of irrevocable divorce, the irrevocable divorce with "small intent", where the divorced woman can reconcile with her husband only with a new marriage contract and dowry, or the irrevocable divorce with "big intent" where the divorced woman can return to her husband only after marrying another husband, consummating the marriage, divorcing him and waiting until the end of the grace period stipulated after divorce in Islam.

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.

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