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In this final Part V of the series on family law matters for expats in the UAE, we continue to understand the key changes brought by the new law in the Emirates of Abu Dhabi, which has significant implications on non-Muslim locals and expats in Abu Dhabi.
Financial Rights of the Wife
One of the key changes introduced by the Abu Dhabi law is the wife’s right to claim compensation on a lumpsum basis after the divorce has occurred. The amount would be determined based on assessment of several factors. These factors include:
- years of marriage: the amount will increase based on the length of marriage;
- contribution to failure of marriage: such as neglect, infidelity or abandonment;
- economic, financial and social status of each spouse;
- loss of opportunity if the wife had to stay in the house, especially if the husband requires the wife to not work;
- number of children, ages and their dependency on the parents; and
- difference in income between the spouses.
The court may designate an expert to estimate the financial amount due to the wife after divorce. The court and the expert will take into account a percentage of the monthly income of the husband, percentage of market value of husband’s property including real estate, shares and stock, and the joint money between the spouses.
The husband could be ordered to pay the determined amount in one shot or in instalments.
Custody Rights of the Parents
Under the new Abu Dhabi law, both parents have equal rights to joint custody of the child which could be arranged on a weekly, bi-monthly or monthly basis.
The joint custody is applicable till the age of 16, after which the child is entitled to choose his custodian. That said, either parent can be removed from joint custody, which will be decided by the court, if the child, who has reached the age of 12, wants such removal.
The rights of joint custody can be forfeited and one of the parents can claim sole custody, if certain cases are met, which is finally decided by the courts. Some of the key ones include:
- child is at risk of being exposed to domestic violence or abuse; or
- living conditions provided by a parent are inadequate; or
- abuse of drugs or alcohol or any psychotropic substances; or
- remarriage of a parent.
- Conflicts related to custody will be resolved by courts expeditiously, keeping the child’s best interest as the core consideration and taking into account the child’s existing lifestyle.
Both parents are entitled to place the child on a travel ban – banning the child from travelling for a temporary period. The relevant parent would need to apply to the court for this travel ban on the ground that there is a potential flight risk. The ban would be subject to the court’s discretion.
Under the new Abu Dhabi law, spouses now have a right to agree that any disputes between them would be settled by arbitration through one or three arbitrators. The spouses can agree on arbitration either prior or after the family dispute has arisen. The law of the UAE relating to arbitration, called the Federal Law No. (6) of 2018 will apply to family arbitrations.
The Abu Dhabi Non-Personal Status Law is a ground-breaking initiative in the Emirates of Abu Dhabi towards giving rights to the expats in line with the international best practices, taking into account the local customs, culture and language. It remains to be seen whether other Emirates of the UAE will follow the lead of Abu Dhabi and introduce similar laws for non-Muslims expats and locals in the near future. Meanwhile, the UAE Personal Status Law would continue to apply to the rest of the UAE.