The Divorce

03 May, 2020

Even though marriages are meant to be forever, people do turnaround from oaths taken, or life happens, and divorce comes in the picture. The following are answers to the most frequent questions concerning filing for divorce, related documents, and both spouses’ rights and obligations.

What is the legal meaning of “divorce” according to UAE regulations?

According to Article no. 99 Personal Status Law, divorce is the dissolution of the marriage contract in the legally prescribed form. The second paragraph of Article 99 Personal Status Law, states that “divorce can take place verbally or in writing in case of inability, by an understandable sign.” When verbally divorce occurs, probations rules require the oath of a witness, since any claim before the court must have proof.

Do Marriages concluded outside UAE’s borders have full effects?

Usually, with few exceptions, most of the marriages concluded and recognized abroad are recognized in the UAE as well.

What is the procedure to attest the marriage certificate?

Marriages certificates or marriage contracts are official documents. (the exact name of the document can vary from one country to another; what is important is that this document has to make full proof that marriage was, in fact, concluded and is recognized by the country where the marriage took place).

In order for such a document to have full effect in the UAE, a special procedure needs to be followed.

Firstly, the marriage certificate needs to be legalized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the country where the marriage was concluded, then attested by the UAE Embassy in the same country and then attested by Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the UAE.

At last, the documents have to be translated into Arabic by an authorized translator and stamped by the Ministry of Justice as certification that the legal translator is certified.

What are the types of marriages that may be unrecognizable in UAE?

Following Sharia guidance, UAE does not recognize marriages between partners of the same sex, marriages between a Muslim woman and a non-Muslim man or marriages between a Muslim man and a woman of another religion, except when she is Christian or Jewish.

Who is mainly entitled to file for divorce?

As per Article no. 100, Personal Status Law, only the husband can file for a divorce or his empowered representative. The wife could ask for divorce only if she was granted the authority to do so, by inserting such a clause in the marriage contract. It is quietly remarkable how many married women in our communities have no knowledge of such a simple right at the time of marriage.

What is the meaning of Khula?

The sharia regulations, as well as the law, provides another solution for the wife to obtain her divorce. In Arabic is called Khula, and it is regulated by Article no. 110, Personal Status Law. Khula is a mutual agreement between the spouses to terminate their marriage. To have the full effect of such an agreement, the wife has to pay compensation to her husband. In practice, the mutual agreement referred to in Khula can be interrupted by the non-agreement of the parties. However, when the court is involved, the judge may enforce the Khula despite the husband’s agreement by court verdict subject to the wife paying a certain amount. In most cases, the amount is equivalent to the Mahr that was extended by the husband at the beginning of the marriage relationship.

What are the grounds a person can use to file for divorce?

The Personal Status Law provides the list of grounds for divorce: divorce on account of defects (such as insanity etc.), divorce for failure to pay the prompt dowry, divorce for prejudice and discordance, divorce for abstention from support, divorce for absence and disappearance, divorce for imprisonment divorce for Ila’a [1] and Zihar[2].

Does the UAE Legal system recognize the separation that is known in other parts of the world?

No, the separation, as known in the western world, does not exist in the UAE. The only separation between a husband and wife is to divorce. Otherwise, they are still married before the law.

When checking the English version of the Personal Status Law, you will notice that the word “separation” is used in the titles of the articles, but the articles themselves provided is actually for rules and grounds for the divorces. The word divorce and separation are synonyms and should not think of the “separation” as you may have heard in other civil law countries.

Who can use the above list of reasons before the court?

Both spouses have the right to do so when it comes to an expat living in the UAE.

In general, when the wife is planning to file for divorce, she can use the grounds mentioned above. The law does not comprise all the possible scenarios where the wife can have a solid argument in order to be granted the divorce. The court will review any reason submitted an decided upon on a case by case basis. However, the law is silent when it comes to the grounds a man should use when divorcing his wife, meaning that he does not need one to be divorced. But, if the husband is not Muslim and an expat as well, he may be required to show serious grounds before Personal Status Courts. This usually occurs when he requests for the application of his home country law for the divorce proceedings.

Can non-Muslim expats in UAE file for divorce?

Yes, Non-Muslims can file for divorce and, moreover, can also request for the law of their home country to be applied before the UAE courts. But, if the law of their home country as requested does not cover certain aspects or its provision come in contradiction with the public order or morals, the courts will use and apply the provisions of the Personal Status Law.

What are the immediate main effects of divorce?

Upon termination of marriage, the waiting period starts, which is one of the main effects of divorce, along with the custody of the child/children and the sponsorship regarding the divorced wife.

What is the meaning of Idda “the waiting period”?

 The waiting period or Idda in Arabic represents the compulsory waiting period that the wife spends without being allowed to marry another man, following a divorce (when she has to wait three months) or in case of the husband’s death (when she has to wait for 4 months and ten days). All these procedures might seem strange, but the reason behind it makes it perfectly understandable because its purpose is to ensure that the father of any offspring produced after the cessation of marriage would be identified.

With nowadays technologies, the child’s affiliation can be probated in many other ways as well, but Islam teachings were meant to help people from hundreds of years ago when such methods were not known to humankind and establishing the child’s affiliation upon the termination of marriage was impossible.

What happens once the waiting period is over?

The importance of Idda is reflected by its direct link to the alimony to which the wife is entitled. Following the provisions stated in Personal Status Law, maintenance is due from the husband to the wife in the following cases:

  1. when he denies having marital relations with her,
  2. when he abstains from supporting her or
  3. when she is in the waiting period

However, as an exception to the rule, a woman waiting for a mourning Idda is not eligible to receive alimony, but only to live in the marital residence.

In the UAE, once the waiting period is over, the husband does not owe any other financial support to his ex-wife.

What are the financial implications of divorce?

In general, marriages and divorces in the UAE follow the rule of separation of assets, which means each of the spouses will have access, in case of divorce, only to what they owned before or during their marriage, in each respective name.

The court will decide to split the goods or assets purchased together (such as a house, for example, or joint bank accounts) based on the evidence the parties will provide. Usually, the parties will submit as evidence title deeds (immovable property, a house, for example, or land), sales and purchase agreements, bank documents, etc.

[1] Ila’a is when the husband swears not to have sexual intercourse with his wife for four-month or more unless he goes back on his oath before the lapse of the four months; divorce, in this case, will be irrevocable

[2] Zihar is when a man says to his wife, “I consider your body is as forbidden to me – sexually – as if you are a mother or a sister, and so on. This is considered as another kind of “swear” that he will not have sexual intercourse with his wife.

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