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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 November 2018

'My husband absconded from the UAE. Am I liable for his debts?'

The Abu Dhabi resident never had access to her husband's finances and fears she may have to pay up

The wife's estranged husband regularly signed up for new credit cards that he then used to spend excessively. Antonie Robertson / The National
The wife's estranged husband regularly signed up for new credit cards that he then used to spend excessively. Antonie Robertson / The National

I am an unemployed mother and want to know if I’ll be held liable for my husband's debts as he absconded from the UAE four months ago leaving an unpaid personal loan. I have no idea of the amount he owes as he never shared any information about his income, loans or credit cards and was always angry when talking about it or any household bills that had to be settled. Our marriage failed mainly because he was spending way too much on expensive clothing and watches and hiding all this, always getting new credit cards and therefore not being able to pay school fees or rent. In the past he had several cases but he managed to settle them with the help of friends and guarantors. I know there was a case for unpaid rent and bounced cheques, another for unpaid credit cards and one for a car loan. He informed me that he was leaving the country just a day before his flight. It was totally unexpected and has left me and our young daughter with unpaid rent and I have had to move to my parents’ house and get financial support from them. We are still legally married. I will soon start a new job and am trying to start a new life but I am very concerned that I could be liable for his debts. I never had access to his bank account or his credit cards. I haven’t even had my own bank account for many years. I have been so worried and I can’t sleep thinking I’ll end up in jail. IF, Abu Dhabi

I am sorry to read that IF is going through this and I appreciate it is worrying. The good news is that under UAE law only the person whose name the debt is in has liability for it. The only time a spouse would be liable is if they are a joint account holder or if they have signed paperwork as a guarantor of the debt. As I understand it, the debts are all in the sole name of the estranged husband and IF has never been a guarantor so she has no legal liability for the debts left by her absconding husband.

It is likely that the banks to whom the money is owed will contact her when trying to recover the debts but they will be aware that she is not liable and must not pressure her to repay in any way. Sadly, it is not unknown for certain banks to attempt this and if they do so she should make a formal complaint to both the bank itself and also the Central Bank of the UAE.

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Read more:

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'Will I be banned for leaving my job during my probation period?'

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I am currently working for a Dubai Airports Free Zone Authority company. I have completed one year of service and am now in my notice period because I got a better job in another company, also within DAFZA. My notice period will end shortly, so will there be any issues with joining the new company? I ask as my new employer is asking me to produce a letter of no objection from my current employer. I am also worried that my current employer will not pay my salary during my notice period? VP, Duba

I understand VP is on an unlimited contract, which means he can leave his current position after working the notice period without being penalised for breaking the terms of a contract, provided he gives suitable notice. When a person moves from one company to another within the same free zone they do not usually change sponsor as the sponsor is the free zone itself, not the specific employer. The responsibility can usually be transferred from one employer to the next but it is standard practice for the previous employer to be asked to agree to the transfer and to supply a no objection certificate or NOC. In some cases, this may be required in Arabic, as well as English. This must be on company letterhead with the company stamp affixed.

An employee is entitled to receive their normal salary during their notice period and should be paid this in full, in respect of all days worked, together with any days of annual leave that have accrued but not been taken. An employee on an unlimited contract who is with an employer for more than a full calendar year including the notice period is also entitled to be paid an end of service gratuity, albeit at a reduced rate. Per Article 132 of UAE Labour Law, this is 21 days per year of service but Article 137 clarifies: "Should the worker bound by an employment contract with undetermined term leave his work by his own choice after a continuous service of one year at least and three years at most, he shall be entitled to one-third of the end of service gratuity". Any monies owed should be paid at the time of leaving service.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser and senior partner with Holborn Assets in Dubai, with over 25 years’ experience. Contact her at keren@holbornassets.com. Follow her on Twitter at @FinancialUAE.

The advice provided in our columns does not constitute legal advice and is provided for information only.