UAE rules and regulations on divorce – Nita Maru

We are usually brought up to believe that when two people fall in love, the natural outcome is getting married and building a family. And just as the decision to get married is no easy one, neither are the legal systems across different countries and jurisdictions when it comes to granting divorce to estranged couples, or to those who feel they can no longer live together as husband and wife.

UAE out in front in divorce

It is no secret that the UAE has the highest rate of divorce in the region, with Dubai ranking first place within the country. In 2012, Dubai alone recorded 1,129 divorces, with divorce among Emiratis making up one-third of all cases. Various reasons for the high rates of divorce in the country have been cited. Reasons including marital infidelity, poor communi­cation, job loss or financial strain, religious and cultural differences, lack of social and emotional support, unrealistic expecta­tions, social media, sexual incompatibility, and child-rearing problems have all been cited as just some of the causes leading to marital discord and to the eventual dissolution of marriages. With expats making up a large portion of the UAE population, this in itself plays a large part in the incidence of infidelity and how quickly married partners become emotionally and physically estranged.

Divorce among Muslim couples

Muslim marriages, are governed primarily by the principles of Sharia Law, which have been specifically designed to make it difficult for couples to divorce, with the emphasis being the sanctity of marriage. Some reasons for seeking divorce include lack of modesty on the part of the wife, cruelty, maltreatment or physical abuse, failure to provide conjugal needs or family support, desertion and mental deficiency. In Dubai, the first step in filing for divorce is to register the case at the Moral and Family Guidance Section of the Dubai Courts. Attempts to reconcile divorcing parties will be made with the guidance of an appointed counselor. If both parties are adamant about the divorce, then the case is forwarded to The Court of First Instance, ie the Personal Status Court. Situations when one desires to reconcile while the other does not will still be heard by The Court of First Instance when any attempts at mediation and reconciliation have failed.

Divorce among expats

Non-Muslims or Muslim expats who have nationalities of other countries can file for divorce in their home country (domicile) or apply for divorce in the UAE. Non-Muslims who married in their country of nationality can divorce under their own country’s laws. However, divorcing couples, even if both citizens are of the same foreign country, can also opt to have the local UAE courts facilitate their divorce instead. Challenges relating to child support, custody, alimony and the division of assets can be complicated when the divorce laws in their country of origin do not coincide with UAE law. In such situations, legal advocates would be required to be instructed to resolve the issue of cross jurisdiction.

Who gets custody of the children?

Under the UAE Personal Status Law definitive roles are granted to the mother and father. The mother will be the ‘custodian’ of young children. She will be responsible for the day-to-day needs of the children. The father will be the ‘guardian’ responsible for the financial/educational/medical/travel needs/decision of the children. The courts will always act in the best interests of the child, therefore, unless the court orders otherwise, custody will be transferred from the mother to the father once the children reach the age of 11 for a boy and 13 for a girl and the father has made an application for custody at the court.

What about division of assets locally?

Women may claim maintenance for themselves for three months after the divorce is finalised. Under the UAE Federal Law the father is under a duty to provide maintenance for the children. The mother may also claim compensation if she has not been supported by her husband (subject to evidence provided) during the last year of her marriage and for moral damage as a result of the divorce. The payments are capped at 40 per cent of the husband’s income for one year.

Find a peaceful conclusion

The parties involved in divorce proceedings sadly begin to lose sight of all that had once made their marriage worthwhile. Even if the concerned parties have determined that there is no way to save their marriage, engaging qualified family lawyers will help ensure they have an orderly parting, and that any children borne out of their union (or adopted in the course of their marriage) are fairly protected.

Please contact one of our experienced lawyers today for more details. Email us at or call +971 4 448 4284.

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