- Legal Articles
- Ask Elhais
June 23, 2021|
Spousal support, separating assets and joint custody is increasingly based on laws based in a couple's home country
Changes made to UAE family law in November have had a considerable impact on the way married people divorce in the UAE.
All expats can now ask for the laws of the country where the marriage took place to apply to their divorce, and most separating couples now choose this option, according to lawyers.
The changes most benefit the less wealthy person, said Dr Hassan Elhais, a legal consultant who leads the legal team at Al Rowaad Advocates in Dubai.
"We have seen a lot of demand from expats requesting to apply their home country law – many, many clients have cases in process," he said.
"Mostly it is women who would be seeking to apply the laws of the place of concluding the marriage, unless there is an exceptional scenario.
"Usually the wealthy party will try to avoid applying the foreign law because asset division is provided for under foreign law."
A slew of personal and family laws were overhauled in the UAE in November, including the statutes governing divorce and inheritance.
Family lawyers said the adjustments mean couples can now use foreign law to divide assets, and apply for spousal support and joint custody, options that are not available under local law.
Alexandra Tribe, an international divorce lawyer with Expatriate Law, said the changes had upturned the legal system for the better.
"An English couple living in the UAE, who are married in England, they can seek to apply English law to their divorce," said Ms Tribe, who practised family law in the UAE for nine years, and now lives in the UK.
"This has wide ranging implications. The UAE courts can start dividing matrimonial assets, perhaps not pensions, but savings and investments and things like that."
In the past, couples largely had to make use of Sharia-based local laws. They could apply to the court to use foreign law to divorce, but only if both parties agreed.
If the case was deemed too complicated, or there was a delay in translating documents into Arabic, or the paying party held dual nationality, then the judge had discretion not to apply foreign law.
Fairer financial settlements for women
UAE courts also did not automatically award long-term spousal maintenance to a wife, instead it was limited to three months post-divorce.
Child support is considered a different payment, and under UAE law the father is responsible for providing for the child financially, even after divorce.
That meant expat couples tended to divorce in their home country, but that was not always possible or preferable, said Ms Tribe.
"Some expats had more tenuous jurisdiction links to their home countries, and would find it difficult divorcing in their home countries," she said.
"This development is also hugely useful when you have a couple where one party is unlikely to cooperate with English proceedings, or if you've got a husband with all his assets in the UAE, and who won't pay up if he receives a UK order."
One of the hardest elements of deciding a divorce tends to be the division of assets. The wealthy party might try to hide their assets to avoid splitting them. Now that expat couples can use foreign law to divorce in the UAE, this is less likely to happen, said Ms Tribe.
"The UAE courts are very hot on enforcement. They're also very hot on uncovering assets.
"On application, an individual can ask the UAE courts to make a search at the Land Department to determine details such as, what properties does my husband have in the UAE? What bank accounts, with which banks?
"All these things are going to be brilliant for obtaining the much needed disclosure we often need in these expat cases."
However, while many married expats look to use foreign law for their divorce, the process is not always simple, in particular in countries that use case law, rather than civil law. This could mean it takes a long time to settle.
"In England, the US, Canada, Australia and South Africa there is no statute, there is no civil law - effectively there is no rulebook," said Dr Elhais. "That poses a practical challenge. I wouldn't say it's impossible, but it is a challenge.
"Civil law systems are much easier, like Spain, Russia and France.
"Couples may wish to factor this into their decision on where they get married."
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.
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
I owe the success of my case to Dr. Hassan's diligent approach. He remained focused, put me at ease and always went the extra mile. Dr. Hassan tirelessly put my case in the best possible light and I cannot thank him enough. I would highly recommend Dr. Hassan - I am grateful to him from the bottom of my heart.
Dr. Hassan Elhais is among the best legal consultants I have ever worked with. He has an amazing ability to reduce complex issues into a simple concept that non-legal people can understand. He consistently develops innovative litigation strategies that help us to achieve our ultimate legal goals.
...the extraordinary effort that has been exerted by the staff, and we specially thank Dr. Hassan Mohsen Alhais. Wishing your continues success & excellence...
I believe everyone should recognize what a difference Dr. Hassan Elhais work has made to people's lives; and especially to our family's life, because we will remain forever grateful to each and every one of his team.
Dr. Hassan Elhais never fears cases that involve exposure and he always gives me his honest assessment of our chances of success, which is invaluable to me.
He aided us not only in providing legal advice but also in all legal issues that required a long term strategic approach to achieve most favorable and optimum outcomes he provided us with high level of professional service.
Dr. Hassan Elhais is a responsible, reputable counsel who operates to high levels of service.
Dr Hassan Elhais is responsive, thorough and creative with his advice, and is a valued advisor and legal consultant.
Regardless of the complexity of the matter I know Dr. Hassan Elhais will consider not only legal strategy but also business practicalities in providing advice and litigation options.
I recommend Dr. Hassan Elhais to anyone who says 'I'm in legal trouble'. I was extremely satisfied with the high standard of his work. He has always been there when I have needed him and I refer all my clients, family and friends to him/his firm.
Dr. Hassan Elhais was very professional and he listened to my needs. He was very prompt, efficient and always kept me informed. Dr. Hassan Elhais's service was excellent and I would definitely recommend him to friends and colleagues.