The UAE court system can be a daunting prospect for expats – especially those who are going down the path of divorce.
Nida Chaudhry, a solicitor working with TWS Legal Consultants in Dubai, answers some of the common questions.
Where can I get a divorce?
This is the most common question expert family lawyers get asked. Legally, this is known as the concept of jurisdiction – specifically, where can a divorce actually happen.
In order for a court to accept a divorce application, that court must have jurisdiction. The factors that will determine the possible choices include the country where the husband and wife were married, where they were born, the place where they habitually resided and/or the local UAE court.
Choosing the appropriate jurisdiction is critical due to the different outcomes that may arise in different courts. For example, in the UAE, the governing law is Sharia law, which does not typically grant spousal support.
It is important to seek a lawyer’s advice when choosing a jurisdiction.
My wife and I have agreed to get a divorce but we do not want to go through a time consuming court process. Is there a simpler way to get a divorce here in Dubai?
Yes, one of the avenues through which couples may obtain a divorce is through mutual consent.
This means the couple agrees to the divorce and all of the terms relating to the breakdown of the marriage, ie payments, child custody… etc.
A mutual consent divorce begins with the preparation of a settlement agreement, which a lawyer may assist you with.
All couples must first meet with the reconciliation counsellor in advance of proceeding with the divorce, a process that is in line with the public policy emphasis of a respect for marriage and familial units.
I am a woman and I would like to divorce my husband in Dubai, do I have the right to do so?
Yes, a woman does have a right to seek a divorce under UAE federal law; however she must provide grounds to do so.
As a matter of simplicity, we always encourage our clients to come to a settlement, such that neither party needs to provide a “reason” for their decision to divorce.
My wife and I were married outside of Dubai in our home country, but now we live here in Dubai. Can I get a divorce in Dubai?
Yes, as long as at least one of you (husband or wife) is residing in Dubai, it is possible for a divorce to be applied for and granted in the Dubai Courts.
I am sponsored by my husband, what will happen to my visa after divorce? What are my options?
Even where a wife is sponsored by her husband, she is not without a solution after divorce.
First, her visa will not be automatically cancelled, her husband will have to take the step to actually go and cancel it.
Secondly, an ex-wife maintains the right to obtain her own visa autonomously. She may obtain employment, or set up a company, such as a free zone company, which would grant her a visa.
I am a wife who is being divorced by my husband in Dubai Courts. I understand I will have custody of our children under Sharia law. However, how can I afford to take care of them?
Under UAE Law, the male is 100 per cent responsible for the support of his children.
As this would naturally include accommodation, which is a significant financial obligation, he would by default also be paying for the housing of his ex-wife.
Many ex-wives with children find this aspect provides a tremendous financial relief.
Conversely, this means that there is a great deal of weight on fathers going through a divorce because they are 100 per cent responsible for support as soon as there are children involved. This creates both a financial and mental battle for the father, especially for those who are not familiar with the cultural intricacies of Sharia law in a family breakdown.
My wife and I are going through the divorce process and she has custody of the children. I am worried she is going to flee with the children. What can I do?
A father has the option of obtaining a travel ban to prevent the wife from travelling with the children.
However, this poses the situation where the wife cannot travel at all with her children, eliminating the possibility of vacations.
He will have to make a decision to possibly risk losing his children permanently in another jurisdiction or to forego the children’s opportunity to travel with their mother on vacations.