'I had proof he had beaten me ... emails saying sorry'
Amira's divorce was particularly difficult for her children because the process took more than a year.
The Emirati mother of three filed for divorce in March 2010. Her husband, she said, was abusive and addicted to drugs.
Rather than ask for khula - a release of the marital bond - Amira asked for a divorce due to harm to the wife, which must be proven in court.
"There are two ways a woman can get a divorce in this country," explained Diana Hamade, a lawyer, who said khula was easier to obtain but means the woman would not receive alimony or other benefits.
"At times - nobody likes to admit it - she may also have to sign release of custody," Ms Hamade said. "And that is usually the worst pain."
Amira, 32, was married for three years. Fearful of criticising the court system, she asked that her real name not be used.
"I had proof of the fact he had beaten me, and I had emails from him saying he was sorry," she said. "I had emails from him saying he was sorry he was taking prescription drugs."
Still, people urged her to be patient with her husband, to keep trying.
"They made it sound like it was my fault, that I wasn't attentive enough for him," she said. "They made it sound like I should take it, accept it, because I'm an Emirati girl."
Their divorce came through in April 2011, when her husband was jailed for four years for drug possession, she said. He was pardoned and freed after several months and granted unsupervised visits with their children.
"If he was a responsible father he wouldn't be taking drugs," she said. "The court had it so he could take the kids out on his own for whole days without supervision. I was so afraid."
Amira agreed to give up alimony if her ex-husband signed a contract saying he would take a nanny along during visits.
The acrimony between them has been tough for their daughters: three-year-old twins and an 18-month-old.
"They're so young," Amira said. "They don't know what's going on."
Updated: July 14, 2012 04:00 AM