What UAE Expats Should Know about Divorce Law

A large population of UAE is made up of expatriates from different nationalities that have diverse and unique cultures. The laws in UAE mirror the people’s culture and practices and are therefore founded on Islamic Sharia Law. Divorce is not encouraged in the UAE because the laws hold the family in high esteem. However, if expats decide to terminate their marriage, the government allows for it to happen.

Where to Start

The expats have a choice of court jurisdiction, that is, they have a choice on where the divorce proceedings will be conducted. The choice can be either one’s place of birth or a country they had settled in for some time or the court in UAE.

Unlike other jurisdictions, the reasons for divorce in the UAE can have serious consequences on the children and finances. For example, adultery is a serious offense in the UAE and it is considered as substantial evidence for divorce. The expat is deported and denied entry into the country. The entire process can take up to three months if the parties agree on financial and child custody matters. However, it could take as long as a year if there are disagreements concerning these issues.

Under the Sharia Law, a divorce can either be revocable where the husband can cancel the marriage for the duration of three months. If the parties decide to revive their marriage, they have to get married in the UAE. The irrevocable divorce ends immediately.

Reasons Why Expats May File for Divorce

There are many reasons that lead to divorce from financial issues to infidelity and lack of communication. Some of these reasons are outlined below:

  • Extramarital relationships are the major causes of divorce in the UAE. Infidelity is common among expats because financial increase might grant the husband more freedom and he might feel confined in the family setting. Anonymity has also contributed to this.
  • When either of the spouses loses a job it might be difficult to survive because when one is employed he gets a residential visa. This causes one or both of them to leave the country.
  • Unreasonable expectations about a partner can also lead to divorce whereby, one partner expects the other to act as their support and anchor system.
  • Since UAE has expats from different nationalities is not uncommon for them to get married, however, they may end up getting divorced because of their differences. For example, religious beliefs and cultural differences cause a lot of disagreements and may even lead to divorce.

Muslim and Non-Muslim Couples

Sharia Law is applied to Islamic marriages and even in case of a divorce. If the husband is Muslim and the wife is not, the Sharia Law will be applied. In the case of non-Muslims who chose to have their divorce in the UAE, the Sharia Law will be applied unless they request for the application of their own laws.

Divorce Laws for Expats in UAE

The divorce process can be filled with drama, horror or it can be a peaceful one. Child custody, property ownership, and finances are the factors that prolong this process. The following information will help an expat who is going or planning on undertaking this process.

  • Depending on the complexity of the case, the duration taken to reach a verdict will vary. The court encourages the couple to reconsider their decision through negotiations that might help them to resolve their disagreement. In case this fails, they are allowed to proceed before the court for the hearing of their case.
  • When it comes to the children, both parties might fight for the custody. Under the UAE Personal Status law, the father is recognized as the guardian and provider. He is, therefore, responsible for the financial needs of the child, providing shelter, and health care. The mother is recognized as the caregiver who is responsible for cleanliness and feeding the child. The court’s verdict is always on the child’s best interest,. This is also applied to minors although in the UAE this might be different from other nations, for example, boys are considered minors until they are 11 while girls are minors until 13.

The divorce law in UAE can seem unfair especially to non-Islamic women. The following are some of the challenges that they may face:

  1. The husband can file for a divorce and cite disobedience by the wife, for example, if the husband forbids the wife to work and she goes ahead and defies him he is allowed to divorce her.
  2. Despite the fact that a wife might help her husband to build a brand, if it is under his name, she gets no share in case of divorce.
  3. The court might decide to grant the father child custody even if the mother feels that the decision is unfair.

Although divorce laws in the UAE are strict, expats have the choice of jurisdiction. Unlike the law they are used to, UAE uses Sharia Law, therefore, it is necessary for expats to be informed on this.

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