Custody and Guardianship matters relating to children in the UAE

When couples separate and decide to divorce the first consideration for most, is the welfare of their children. Where will the children live? Will I get to spend time with them? Can I travel with them? These are just some of the questions that come to mind in relation to children, when deciding to proceed with a separation.

For British expats living in the UAE, a further consideration is which jurisdiction to apply in. By virtue of any children residing in Dubai, local laws will apply to children matters, except for in certain circumstances wherein one can establish jurisdiction in the English Courts, which is linked to the divorce. We explore below matters relating to children both within the UAE and the English Courts.

Children Matters in UAE
The law in the UAE relating to children matters, is governed by the Personal Status Law which sets out that the principles and factors which need to be considered when making any decision relating to children in the UAE. The courts in the UAE, make decisions based on what they deem to be in the best interests of the children, this concept is similar to that of the English Courts. However, save as to this, the principles governing children matters in the UAE are different to the English Courts.

It is worthwhile to note that if parties use the UAE courts to obtain a divorce and matters are amicable, they can both agree the conditions surrounding custody, guardianship and visitation and submit a settlement agreement setting out the same. In such circumstances the parties can reach an agreement that works best for their family, such as equal parenting, with equal time spent with each parent, division of holidays, birthdays etc. This may be a good option for expats who do not want UAE law to apply, when determining child arrangements.

Children Matters in the UK
Jurisdiction of children matters usually fall to the courts in the country in which the children are resident. However, if the parties establish jurisdiction to divorce in the UK, then in certain circumstances jurisdiction can fall to the English court for determination of children matters.

The law in the UK relating to children is governed by the Children Act, which provides a framework for determining children matters, through the English Courts.

The general starting point is that both the mother and father share equal parental responsibility for the children. Unlike in the UAE, there is no concept of custody or guardianship but rather applications are made for a child arrangements order, which determine who the children should live with or how much time they spend with each parent. The courts will consider factors such as the children’s wishes and feelings, any physical or emotional needs, any harm etc and make a decision on what they determine to be in the best interests of the children.

The court can also determine specific issues such as which school the children should go to or put in place prohibited steps orders for example to ensure the children are not removed from the country.

Parties can also opt to agree matters amicably in relation to child arrangement matters and decide between themselves where the children will live, how much time will they spend with each parent, how school holidays will be split etc. Such agreements can be reached between the parties themselves, or through the help of lawyers or mediators and thereafter can be converted into parenting plans if necessary.

If you are in situation where child arrangements matters are disputed between you and your spouse or you are unclear about which jurisdiction will apply to your children, please reach out to our Family Lawyers who can advise you in detail about your specific matter.

How can TWS Legal Consultants help?
Our Family Lawyers have vast experience of divorce/children matters both in Dubai and the UK. To book a consultation with a Family Lawyer contact us on the details below:
or call +971 4 448 4284

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