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Resolving family disputes with UAE Family Laws

Unfortunately, in some cases jurisdiction may not cover British divorce for expats living in the UAE or Dubai. If you are in this situation, then it’s important to be careful when it comes to financial settlements. You must take extra care to ensure protective measures are in place to stop financial claims being made in other countries –  be aware that a financial claim can be made in England after your divorce under Part III Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984.

Our advice is to ensure that any financial agreement prepared in the UAE is also recognised overseas. Making sure the financial agreement is recognised overseas will protect you from further claims in the future.

Stowe Family Law’s family law solicitors can advise on whether it’s more beneficial for you to get divorced in the UAE or England.


  • Expat divorce - how can Stowe Family Law help?

    Stowe Family Law advises on international divorce throughout the Middle East, assisting clients in the processes and best practices that need to be followed in order to go through the English courts and achieve their desired outcome under English law.

    Holly Lamb, Head of International at Stowe Family Law, is an expert in dealing with all matters pertaining to international family matters, including International Divorce and International Child Law.

    Holly and the international divorce lawyers at Stowe work alongside clients to understand their needs, before advising on the next steps to achieve the desired outcome in their expat divorce case.

What are the UAE family laws?

Here, we explore family law in the UAE, including which areas these laws apply to, as well as some FAQs surrounding expat divorce in the UAE.

  • Which areas are in the UAE?

    The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is made up of seven Emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Fujairah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain – all of which are governed by the same legal system.

  • Is family law the same throughout the UAE?

    In principle all laws remain the same throughout the UAE; however, some Emirates choose to interpret and implement these laws with differing levels of strictness.

  • Can British expats use UAE courts to divorce?

    In short, yes. Expatriate residents can file for divorce in their home country (domicile) or apply for divorce in the UAE.

    If the parties wish to have the law of their home country applied, they may petition for this before the court.

  • UAE divorce law

    Islamic marriages are governed by Sharia Law, meaning the husband may divorce the wife. However, the wife can only divorce the husband if stated  that she may do so in the marriage contract.

  • Maintenance and financial law in the UAE

    There is no spousal support on separation under Sharia and UAE law, as well as no provision for the sharing of assets, wealth or income during or after divorce.

    Fathers are unable to claim spousal maintenance from  ex-wives even in the circumstance that he is granted custody of the children.

    A father is liable for his children’s education and living expenses, including rent and domestic employees’ salaries. These payments are calculated based on the father’s income and limited to 30% of his income. However, a father can choose to pay more if he wishes.

  • Child custody law in the UAE

    Unlike in the UK, parents do not share equal parental responsibility and rights for their children. In the event of a divorce, parents take on different roles as far as the children are concerned. The mother becomes the custodian of the children, with the father becoming the childrens guardian.

    As the custodian, the mother will have custody of the children and is responsible for caring for them – the mother will retain this custody providing she meets the following criteria:

    • deemed to be of sound mind
    • honest
    • free from infectious disease
    • not been convicted of a “dishonourable crime”.

    Once the children reach a certain age (11 for boys and 13 for girls) custody moves from the mother to the father – unless the father is not an appropriate custodian – in which case custody will be given to the maternal grandmother, paternal grandmother or sisters.

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