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February 05, 2021

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Amended UAE family law measures help divorce rates decline

Legal expert says more could be done to promote the importance of marriage, particularly to younger people

Divorce rates in the Northern Emirates fell significantly last year. Statistics from the Ministry of Justice revealed 618 couples in the emirates of Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah, and Umm Al Quwain ended their marriages in 2020, a 17.9 per cent drop from 735 the previous year.

The number comprised 290 Emirati couples and 328 in which at least one of the spouses was an expatriate.

The figures continue a recent trend of falling divorce numbers in the four emirates, with 739 couples splitting in 2018 and 740 parting ways in 2017. Official statistics for Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah were not available. Emirati lawyer Awatif Mohammed called for high-school pupils to be taught about the importance of marriage and for more advice and support to be given to those about to tie the knot.

"The goal of which [would be] to promote the importance of communicating with one's family members to help achieve stronger bonding that will naturally lead to more respect and understanding," she said.

A senior judge said that some family disputes were fuelled by stay-home measures implemented in the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak.

"This doesn't mean the pandemic is to be considered a cause, it was a secondary factor that brought some existing marital problems to the surface," said Khalid Al Hosani, chief justice for Dubai's Court of Personal Status.

He said cases seen by Dubai's personal status court in the first 10 months of 2020 revealed that marriages end because of four main factors.

"These included domestic violence, failing to provide for the family, abandonment, and a cultural and social incompatibility between the husband and wife," he said.

A legal expert said changes made to UAE's family law, requiring a stronger basis for divorce to be granted when first filed, were proving effective. "The country made key decisions related to family stability by changing the law that helped bring the number of divorces down," said Dr. Hassan Elhais, legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates.

"Before the law was amended, divorce cases filed on the basis that one part is being harmed by their spouse were referred to family dispute counsellors.

"If counsellors failed to resolve the marital dispute, they would recommend divorce.

"But now the case doesn't get referred to counsellors, because the revised law made it mandatory the spouse provides proof of the harm they claim, otherwise the case is dismissed.

"If the couple file for divorce again, in this case, the court could be called on to mediate and will refer the case to counsellors."


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