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Divorce Cases in Dubai: A Definitive Legal Guide

UAE is one of the nations with the world’s highest divorce rate, and Dubai leads the separation race with more than 1/3rd of its Emirati population heading for divorce every year. Infidelity in marriage has been reported to be one of the major reasons behind the increasing divorce cases being filed in Dubai every other day. Also, job loss, social media, financial crisis, cultural & religious differences, poor communication and even impractical promises and the frustration arising from a broken trust are some of the other common reasons that trigger the divorce rate.

No matter to which country or religion you belong to, divorce is never a pleasant affair and can result in a lot of complications if you are not quite careful. Specifically, if you are living in a foreign land, you are totally new to the legal system and unaware of the procedures that follow a divorce. Here is all that you need to know about filing a divorce in Dubai

Divorce cases among Emirati couples living in Dubai

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The Sharia law is the governing authority according to which Islamic marriages are performed and dissolved. When it comes to filing divorce cases in Dubai, the couple needs to register a case with the Moral and Family Guidance division of the Dubai Courts. As in every other nation, the court and the law make its best attempt to analyze and settle down the rifts within couples, the same rule applies in Dubai too, the separating couples will be subjected to counseling sessions. The main objective of the counselor is to settle down the differences between the separating couples by avoiding a divorce. In situations, when the counseling fails and the couples continue to stick on to their decision for separation, the case will be handed over to the court, which acts as the decision maker. Even under circumstances, when one of the couples agrees to reconcile while the other is still adamant on separation, the case will be handled by the court.

How do expat couples file for divorce in Dubai?

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The legal process  that prevails in Dubai pertaining to the divorce procedures might be different from the ones prevailing in your home country. Expats and non-Muslims can either choose to file for a divorce in their domicile or they can register a case with the courts in the UAE. Also, the laws with regard to the custody of children, assets and compensation might vary and can be too challenging when compared to the laws governing divorce cases in your home country.

The divorce procedures might be too time-consuming and frustrating when you plan to seek legal assistance for separation in the Dubai courts.

Filing for a divorce in Dubai

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If you have conducted a deeper research on the processes that follow divorce in Dubai, you might have come across various contradictory stories and rumors surrounding these. Your major concern must be whether the expat laws or UAE laws will be applicable in the divorce cases with regard to expat couples.

Relax! If both the expat couples want the legal procedures to proceed as per the laws of their home country, then they can submit a petition to the Dubai court requesting the same.

The Article 1 of Federal Law No. 28 of 2005 states that this law shall govern the citizens of the United Arab Emirates State unless the non-Muslims of them have special regulations relating to their sect and religion making it possible for expat couples to request for a separation process adhering to the laws of their home country.

Also, the article states that the regulations shall govern non-citizens unless one of them shall hold to the application of this law, which means that the law permits relevant parties to exercise their freedom to apply a law of their choice to their personal status matters. This means that when both the expat couples are hailing from the same place, this will not hinder their freedom to opt for a separation process based on the laws of their home country.

The situation is slightly complex when both the parties belong to different home countries. In this case, the Article 13 of the UAE Civil Code applies and as per the law if the husband originates from one country and the wife from another then the law governing the husband’s home country will be upheld. The Article 13 states that ” The law of the state of which the husband is a national at the time the marriage is contracted shall apply to the effects on personal status, and the effects with regards to property resulting from contracting of the marriage.”

In certain cases, when the law does not hold the sufficient power to cover particular aspects of the divorce procedures, the Dubai court can exercise decisions as per the UAE law.

Time taken to resolve divorce cases

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The complexity of a case determines the overall time taken to resolve and adjudge a divorce in the Dubai court. Some of the cases can be resolved and dissolved with little or no effort while others become complicated and take too long to complete.

As, we have already discussed whenever a party decides to file a divorce case requesting to dissolve their marriage, a counseling session will be arranged to help the parties resolve their differences and get back avoiding a divorce. Though, the couples decide to part their ways, the law does not allow them to dissolve it so quickly and they will be provided with time to resolve and sort out the differences.

The counseling sessions provide both the parties with an opportunity to speak out their hearts and the issues and concerns that led them to decide to put an end to their marriage. This is a mandatory process of every divorce case in Dubai.

“Marriages are made in heaven” and it might be easy to break a relationship though it is difficult to maintain it and this is one of the reasons why the counseling sessions are organized to allow the couples to try and resolve the rift. When both the couples have reached a mutual understanding and decided to dissolve their marriage, the case will not extend beyond the counseling sessions. Both the couples are required to draft a settlement and sign it in the presence of the conciliator.

This settlement need not adhere to the Sharia regulations or the UAE law, but can be formed on the basis of the mutual understanding of both the parties. In situations where the rift between the couples gets complicated, the conciliator issues a referral letter to the claimant which allows them to seek the court’s help in putting an end to their marriage. The parties are provided with three months time to submit the referral letter to the court where the further proceedings of their divorce case will take place. Now it is the responsibility of both the parties to provide sufficient evidence in defense of their claims against one another so that the court can approve their divorce at the earliest.

Custody of the children

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This is one of the situations where the legal procedures can become too complicated as in most of the cases both the parents demand custody of their children. As per the UAE, Personal Status Law both the parents are required to adorn definitive roles once a child is born to them.

The father is responsible for taking care of the financial needs of the child and also ensuring the medical and other necessities are tended to while the mother is responsible for the day-to-day needs of the child including food and sanitation. The court takes into consideration the child’s best interests and issues the physical custody of the children to their mothers under the supervision of their fathers.

Division of assets

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This creates complexities specifically when the wife is a foreigner. Under the laws of the UAE, women can claim maintenance for their children and also for themselves up to three months from the day the divorce has been formalized. The UAE law also provides women with the right to claim compensation in 2 other situations:

When the husband has not provided any financial support during the last year of their marriage. Also compensation for the moral damage resulting from a divorce.

The compensation accounts up to 40% of the husband’s income and is applicable only for a year from the date of divorce formalization.

Total time taken

Under normal circumstances, it might take three to six months for the court to approve or formalize the divorce. If you are applying for divorce under the Islamic Sharia law, it will not be approved unless the judge is totally convinced and might take some time. Also, you need to establish that you are mentally sound and capable of making your own choices before applying for a divorce in the UAE.

Seek legal assistance to help you with your divorce proceedings in Dubai, to ensure a fair judgment is established favoring the interests of both the parties.

Legal Maxims is one of the leading legal and corporate law firms based in Dubai providing consultation on business set up activities and also other corporate procedures. Our highly-talented team of experts provides a wide range of services that includes Legal, Auditing & Accounting, Business Incorporation, Market Research & Feasibility Study Services, ISO Services and much more. For further inquiries, please feel free to contact us.

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