This is what's really involved if you want to make the marriage separation official in Dubai
15 August 2019| Last updated on 18 August 2019
Relationships are complicated. When they end, especially a married one, they can get even more complicated
There are heaps of legal matters to resolve - finances, parenting custody, property, and more - when a married couple needs to untangle their lives from each other.
Divorce in Dubai ranks the highest in the country, with UAE expats making up two-thirds of the annual divorce rate and Emiratis making up one-third of legal separations. One in every four UAE marriages eventually ends in divorce or unofficial separation.
According to the local government, the high records of divorce have been attributed to various reasons including financial strain, marital infidelity, poor communication between spouses, religious and cultural clashes, or simply a difference in marriage expectations.
Whatever the reason may be, if handling marital troubles amicably has failed time and time again and separation seems like the only practical route, this is what you need to do to make it official.
To make sense of what it all means, we've compiled a complete guide to getting a divorce in Dubai to better explain the legal process and provide an idea of the practicalities involved.
Eligibility for divorce in Dubai
Divorce laws for non-Muslim couples
Foreigners in the UAE can file for divorce in the country if:
- They are UAE residents
- They may be able to divorce in their home country, as per their home country's laws
- Their application for divorce in the UAE will follow their home country's marriage laws
If the parties plan to apply their home country's laws for the divorce proceedings, they must petition for this before the UAE court under Article 1 of the Federal Law No 28 of 2005 for Personal Affairs.
If the husband and wife come from different countries, this may complicate the procedure as their home country's laws on divorce may differ from the other's. For example, legal problems such as the division of assets, child custody, and child support, may not coincide with their respective country's laws.
Expats can also file for divorce under the UAE government - when the local court is summoned to decide on divorce proceedings, the husband and wife must follow Sharia law instead of that of their home country's laws.
This, however, could lead to a party who is unhappy with the outcome, causing them to request an appeal resulting in another round of financial and emotional legal discussions. It's highly advised to seek legal counseling from a licensed family lawyer in the UAE.
Divorce laws for Muslim couples
If both the husband and wife expats are Muslim, or only one is Muslim and the other is non-Muslim, Sharia law will be applied for the separation. Situations where one spouse wishes to reconcile while the other is adamant on separating will still be eligible for a divorce case.
Divorce process in Dubai
How to file a divorce in Dubai
- Seek proper legal advice from a licensed family lawyer in UAE
- Once legal consultation is sought, either the husband or wife can register the divorce case at the Moral and Family Guidance Section in the local judicial department of that emirate
- A court-appointed conciliator will work with the couple to try and reconcile them (this session is mandatory)
- If both spouses are immovable about the divorce, the conciliator will give them a referral letter which establishes that you both are of sound mind to make the choice
- The letter permits both parties to proceed and conclude the official separation, and must be submitted to the UAE court within three months of its issue date
- Once the case falls into the court, both parties must provide evidence to support their claims for divorce and any defence they may have against such claims
- The husband and wife must be clear and concise with their post-divorce concerns while discussing with their legal representatives. This includes the division of assets such as property, custody of children and pets, and mutual understanding regarding child support
- Both parties must draft a settlement with agreed-upon outcomes of the divorce
- The case is presented to the judge at court and must convince him/her that the marriage will not work, the couple will have an orderly separation, and any children from the union will be protected and cared for. The judge's decision will finalise the case's outcome
What is the cost of divorce in Dubai?
The average costs for a divorce (which includes professional legal help) typically ranges between AED 8,000 to AED 12,000.
Who will get custody of the children?
Parents in the UAE do not share equal parental rights and responsibilities.
If a couple is divorcing in Dubai, the father will become the "guardian" and the mother is the "custodian". The guardian is responsible for the child's schooling, healthcare, accommodation, and guiding them in morals, ethics, and religion. The custodian is responsible for the day-to-day care of the kids such as daily transport to school, food, and more.
Typically, the mother will have custody of the child until they reach the age of puberty. The father will then have the right to apply for a transfer in custody of the children.
Custody claims will be assessed by the Dubai court and will act in the best interests of the child based on the lifestyle and facts of the two parents.
How long will the divorce proceedings takes?
There are no instant divorces in Dubai.
The length of time it takes to conclude a divorce takes depends on how complicated the case is and how amicable both parties are during the proceedings. It takes an average of 3 to 6 months, and perhaps even longer if the case becomes too complicated.
Find out more about divorce procedures in Dubai here.