Children and the Law in UAE : Case study

Children and the Law in UAE : Case study

Family Law – UAE and UK

Tom is a British Citizen who moved to Dubai in 2000 to expand his career.  Selina is a citizen of the Philippines and met Tom in Dubai in 2002 through their work.  Both Tom and Selina are Christians and married in 2003 at Christ Church in Dubai.  As Tom was excelling in his career, he decided to open his own business in Dubai in 2005 and registered the company in his own name.  

Tom and Selina were well settled in Dubai and decided to start a family.  Their son Josh was born in 2008 and daughter Sky was born in 2012 after which Selina gave up her full-time job as a marketing executive to look after the children and help Tom with the family business, which was evidently flourishing.    

In 2014, Selina noticed a change in Tom’s behaviour whereby he was spending a lot of time away from the family and also being discreet about family money when Selina would ask where money from the business was being spent.  Tom appeared to be angry all the time and sometimes took his frustrations out on the children by scolding and hitting them and shouting at Selina.   Selina and Tom attended Counselling and as they felt it helped, they decided to stay together.  In 2019, Selina again noticed a change in Tom’s behaviour whereby he would constantly demean her.  She also noticed his reluctance to involve her in the family business in which she had played an active support role for the past few years. Tom began spending less time with the children and started scolding them at every opportunity for no apparent reason.   The atmosphere at home was always tense and Tom has suggested that they should separate / divorce as well as suggesting that as business is not good, he wants to downgrade the family home and change the children’s school.  
Selina has now seeks legal advice in respect of the marriage and in particular to protect the children. 

As children should always be the primary consideration when there are issues in the marriage, steps should be taken to address any potential harm, whether physical or emotional.  Depending on her concerns, Selina should consider speaking to either the school, medical experts or an organisation which deals with child protection.    

If divorce is to be considered, as the family and the children are habitually resident in UAE and no divorce proceedings have been commenced in any other Country, the UAE Courts would have jurisdiction to deal with the family and children matters.  Recent changes to the UAE Personal Status Law No. 28 of 2005 outline that in the event of a dispute regarding the Laws to be applied in respect of the divorce, the applicable Law will now be the Law of the Country where the parties were married. The previous position was that if either Tom or Selina were to request another Law to be applied, it would have been the Law of the husband’s nationality (although they would have had to produce that attested Law, legally translated into Arabic, for the UAE Court).  Selina can also consider alternative jurisdictions for the actual divorce and settling financial issues, though children issues would need to be considered in their Country of habitual residence.

When considering divorce, Selina should be aware that the Divorce can proceed on amiable terms through the UAE Courts and the parties can file a Settlement Agreement at Court addressing all family matters including the dissolution of the marriage, financial arrangements for the family, distribution of assets and arrangements to be made for the children.  

Various UAE Laws relating to the rights of children have portrayed the Country’s long commitment to the rights of children and continued efforts are made to safeguard those rights.  Federal UAE Laws stress that all children must be provided with appropriate living standards, access to health services, education, equal opportunities in essential services and facilities without any kind of discrimination. The Law also protects children against all forms of negligence, exploitation, physical and psychological abuses.  Those who put children in danger, neglect them, leave them without supervision, do not enrol them in school will be subject to a prison sentence or a fine or both. 

Unlike legal concepts in the UK, parents do not share equal parental responsibility for the child in UAE where the presumption is that the mother will become the ‘custodian’ of young children, and the father the ‘guardian’. Custody and guardianship of a child are two separate issues that must be addressed individually.  The custodian has actual, physical custody of the child and must raise, take care, and bring up the child whilst the guardian’s role is to provide financial support for the child, make crucial decisions about his/her upbringing and education, and manage the child’s affairs in general.  

In terms of financial provisions following the Divorce, the Dubai Courts have produced guidelines to indicate the amounts that the Court can order the husband to pay for the family.  These guidelines are broadly based on the net income of the husband.  We can advise Selina on the likely amounts that the Court would order bearing in mind the specific circumstances of her case.   

As the above is a general overview, for specific information or advice in relation to any matters concerning children or divorce, please contact our Family Department.

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