One Emirati mother-of-three receives just Dh6,000 a month and finds it very difficult to give her children what they need while still making ends meet.
ABU DHABI // “Fatima”, a mother of four, says she is struggling to keep her head above water.
Since her divorce in 2010, she says her former husband, also an Emirati, has only paid her small amounts each month, between Dh200 and Dh500, as maintenance.
Fatima is only one of many women who say they cannot live comfortable, independent lives because they are not paid enough alimony.
Her family lives in a rented house for which her brothers help to pay, and the amount she has had to borrow weighs heavily on her mind.
“Even though I have a job, I don’t get a big enough salary as I only have a high school diploma,” Fatima says. “I have a bank loan that I must also pay, but I don’t have the financial ability.”
She says she has taken several loans to pay for her rent, furniture, car and children’s schooling.
Recently, she has had to consider quitting her job because of medical problems – but the loans make that impossible.
“My family help me whenever I need it but I can’t always ask them for money. I also received several alms from the Crown Prince’s Court on some occasions, but what I need is for my bank loan to be paid fully and it is a big amount,” she says.
Her eldest son, who is 17, is looking for odd jobs to help contribute towards the family’s finances.
Umm Saeed, 31, also an Emirati, receives Dh6,000 a month in maintenance from her former husband and she says she can barely support her three children with it.
“I am trying to give my children everything I can, but I cannot handle it with this kind of money,” she says.
Umm Saeed claims her ex-husband did not pay her alimony for 12 consecutive months.
Now, he irregularly pays her the amount he agreed to in their divorce settlement.
Umm Saeed says her inability to find a well-paid job, after having achieved only a high school certificate, has added to her burden.
She says she does not want to work until late in the afternoon, as she wants to focus on raising her children properly.
“My children are my priority, they are the most important thing in my life,” she says.
“If I don’t raise my children, do I just leave them to a maid?”
She has looked for freelance work but that has not helped either.
“On certain months, I have nothing left and I can’t save any money because of the small amount I receive that barely covers our finances,” Umm Saeed says.
She says she is unable to receive social benefits because her father is an investor in the country. But she cannot accept her father’s money as he is no longer her guardian.
“I have my children in my custody and the court only pays Dh500 as a fee for being a guardian. A maid gets more,” she says.
Lawyer Ali Al Abadi says alimony is specified by judges in the Personal Affairs Courts.
“It is up to the court to decide the amount depending on the husband’s social status and yearly income,” Mr Al Abadi says.
The children’s situation and ages are also taken into account.
Both the husband and wife can ask their representing lawyers for a change in the amount.
“The wife has the right to ask for an increase in the alimony and the husband has the right to ask for a decrease, depending on his financial situation,” Mr Al Abadi says.
“If the wife believes she requires a larger amount for anything in particular, her lawyer can request that at court.
“The judge will then decide whether there will be an increase or a decrease, depending on the case.”
Umm Saeed says her lawyer asked the court to increase her alimony, but it did not accept her arguments.
“We divorced mothers need more support, especially financially. The alimony given should be more than Dh10,000, at least for three children,” she says.
“The Government is working hard at looking after our needs, but I ask the judges who handle such cases to look at both sides of the issue.
“They look at the husband’s salary and assets and neglect the mother’s need to care for her children.”