What are the visitation rights of both parents in the UAE under Family Law?


Undergoing a divorce is a tough process for all parties concerned, especially if children are involved. Often divorce involves dealing and settling issues related to the financial matters of the spouses, maintenance for the wife and children, visitation rights, education matters of the children and other post marital matters. 

What are the visitation rights of parents?

Under the UAE laws which govern marriage, divorce, custody, guardianship (Federal Law No. 28 of 2005 On Personal Status), there is a difference between a custodian and a guardian. A custodian under the UAE Personal Status Law is an individual concerned with the child’s day to day life, involved in raising, taking care and bringing up the child. A guardian on the other hand, financially maintains the child, makes decision regarding the child’s education, upbringing and generally takes care of the child’s affairs. According to Article 146 of the UAE Personal Status Law, the mother has the first right to be the custodian till the male child turns 11 and the female child turns 13, provided she is not unfit. In all cases, it is the child’s best interest which is the main consideration. 

Visitation Rights in a Mutual Divorce:

If the parties are divorcing with mutual consent, the parties typically agree to enter into a settlement agreement. The settlement agreement will set out the terms of the divorce, maintenance matters, custody of the children, visitation rights of the other party, travel of the children, and other related issues. Accordingly, parties can mutually agree on the visitation rights of the parent who is not the custodian, including the place of visitation, period of visitation, visitation for important events, vacation and holidays, etc. 

The settlement agreement is signed by the parties before the family courts, which then becomes binding on the parties. 

Having said the above, it is important to note that the Family Guidance Department or the family court has the right to remove or amend any provision of the proposed settlement agreement.

Visitation Rights in a Contested Divorce: 

In the contested divorce, the judge will issue an order which will fix the maintenance of the wife and children, determine who the custodian will be and set out the right of visiting the child by the other person (Article 107 of the Personal Status Law). 

Under Decision No. 3 of 2021 On the Adoption of the Manual of Procedures Organising Personal Status Matters in Dubai Courts (Dubai Decision), which applies only to Dubai, the judge determining the visitation rights, shall, in his order related to visitation, specify the visitation days, time, place, description, and right holder, whether during school days, holidays, or vacations, and whether or not it includes off-site visits. The judge may rule or order the overnight stay of the child under custody with the person entitled to visitation, unless the interest requires otherwise. 

Under Article 3 of the Dubai Decision, to determine the time of visitation, the judge will take into account the distance between the place of residence of the child and the other parent. Visitation of the child till 2 years of age shall occur in the place of residence of the custodian unless the child’s interest provides otherwise. 

Having said the above, it is important to note that the courts are to be guided by the Dubai Decision No. 3 of 2021 for the cases that are pending before the Dubai courts, but this is not mandatory. 

Conclusion

Divorce proceedings are difficult for all parties. It may be prudent to hire a family law expert who will guide you on the process applicable in the UAE, especially given the language barrier which is amplified if you are a foreigner. 

 

Disclaimer:
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 expat 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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