DUBAI // A decision made today will relieve Muslim couples of an extra trip to court to get married. According to the order of Chief Justice of the Personal Status Courts, marriage officiants can now legally complete the entire procedure. Traditionally, marriage contracts in Dubai had to be approved by court - especially marriages between two people of different nationalities. Special permission had to be applied for at the chief justice's office in addition to the regular documentation. Marriage officiants in the emirate were only allowed to approve marriage contracts between Emiratis or Muslim residents of the same nationality. According to Chief Justice Salim Obaid Othman, marriage officiants - such as imams - can now approve contracts between Muslims outside of court.
"Marriage officiants, up to six months ago, were only allowed to approve contracts for Emiratis and GCC nationals. Then, last April, we allowed them to approve contracts without having to register them in court, but only for same nationality marriages," said the chief justice. "We have seen an increase in the number of marriages. Therefore, this is part of our initiative to reduce the strain on the personal status courts." No conditions are set for marriage contracts between Muslims as long as they are both residents, according to Chief Justice Othman. However, an approval has to be acquired from a certification judge in the case that one member is under 18 or twice as old as the other. Dubai Courts introduced a number of different ways to fast track procedures such as the E-Marriage system in 2008.
"Online marriage applicants can fast-track their papers on our dedicated counters, and the whole process only takes 20 minutes, provided they present all the required documents and fees," said to Abdul Rahim al Hashemi, head of Sharia personal status case services at Dubai Courts. Registration can be completed at the Dubai Courts' online portal www.dc.gov.ae under the section, eZawaj. A full list of requirements and a step-by-step guide are available for interested parties. "We also provide online alimony payments and other Sharia services at our website," said Mr al Hashemi. Statistics released by Dubai Courts show that, over the last three years, the number of marriages has steadily increased due to these initiatives. In 2007, 3,155 marriages were registered at the court; in 2009, 3,619 marriages were conducted. The increase in numbers has been reflected by the increase in the number of resident marriages in comparison to the number of Emirati marriages. In 2007, 1,208 Emirati marriages took place and in 2009 the number dropped to 1,178. Meanwhile, resident Muslim marriages went from 1,458 in 2007 to 1,902 in 2009. The courts also introduced a small wedding chapel for newlyweds and their families to celebrate free of charge. "This is all part of the services we provide. The idea came from the Dubai Courts administration to present added value to our services," said Mr al Hashemi. The majority of marriages, according to Mr al Hashemi, were between UAE nationals, followed by Indian and Pakistani couples. On a daily basis, an average of seven to 10 marriage contracts are issued at the courts and at least three couples celebrate at the chapel with their respective families. The Personal Status Services hall at the Dubai Courts is open on weekdays from 8am to 2pm and from 5pm to 8pm. All marriage transactions, alimony payments and Sharia services are conducted during these hours. firstname.lastname@example.org