Taking care of children after divorce

After divorce procedures are set between the couple, it is time to think about raising your children after separation.

The term child custody in Arabic is Hadana. It means holding a child close to one’s heart by protecting and educating him.

Guardian and Custodian

UAE law draws a distinction between the roles of the ‘guardian’ and ‘custodian’. The guardian is in charge for securing the child’s finances, education and other important affairs. The custodian is the person who physically takes care of the child every day.

Joint custody of children is not possible in the UAE

Aspects to know about UAE custody law

The first thing to note here — a joint custody of children is not possible in the UAE. One of the parents has to become a custodian, while another one becomes a guardian. Usually a mother, who will have a custody over a child, while the father becomes his child’s guardian.

Another important aspect is that foreign court orders regarding child custody are not enforceable in the UAE. The maximum you can do is to submit them as part of a UAE child custody case. This is because the UAE is not a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction. It is especially important to note, considering the Emirates’ non-recognition of joint custody. So, if a foreign-based parent has been granted joint custody by his or her local laws, this will be highly likely not applicable the UAE. Therefore, because of the UAE’s refusal to recognize joint custody, cases of parental child abduction to the UAE are becoming an increasingly common and fraught occurrence.

If the mother is not Muslim, her custody may be considered null unless a judge decides otherwise.

Father can lodge a complaint. He may do so if his former wife is unfit to take care of their offspring. In this case, a mother has to undergo a rigorous legal testing process through which the custodian must be cleared as honest and capable of raising a child, free of infectious disease and not having been convicted of a serious crime. Appeals in custody cases may be heard if lodged up to 30 days after the original decision was made.

 What about religion

An important clause in custody laws in the UAE is that a parent has the same religion as his or her child. The religion of the child is determined by the father. Therefore, if the father is a Muslim, the child is also Muslim and the mother’s faith must be Islamic in order to be considered for custody. If the mother follows another religion, her custody may be considered null unless a judge decides otherwise.

An important note is that the divorced mother cannot travel outside the UAE with her child without written approval from the child’s father. A father may even place a stop order on his former spouse traveling with their child: if this is done, the mother will be stopped from foreign travel by airport officials. A mother is able to relocate her and her child(ren) to another town or city in the UAE, as long as the move does not hamper the education of the child(ren), or cause the father to suffer undue hardship.

 Raising children after divorce

In case of remarriage of a woman, the mother’s sister may take care of the child. If the wife does not have a sister, then custody will be passed to the next female kin on the mother’s side of the family, for example, her mother, or a cousin.

Boys will be in the care of their mother until seven or eight (depends on court rulings). Girls will stay until thirteen. Afterward custody of a child may be transferred to the father or the father’s family. The age may be extended by the court if it is deemed to be in the best interests of the child. A male child will then stay in the care of his father until he becomes a teenager (13 years old), while a girl will stay with the father until she is married, or is earning enough to cover her own living costs.

It is significant, how UAE law protects children. On the other side, we have a woman, who is the most vulnerable party in the situation. Therefore, there is a piece of advice for those, who plan to marry in UAE, and not only for them: to study family law regulations ahead, in order to be prepared for such situation. The entire Emirati law rotates around Sharia, including family regulations.


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