x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Court overrules husband, allowing woman to travel with her child

In a landmark ruling, judges order that a mother may travel outside the country with her child despite her husband's objection.

ABU DHABI // The UAE has taken another step towards enhanced rights for women and children with a ruling by the Federal Supreme Court that women may travel abroad with their children even if their husbands object. The Supreme Court argued that although the law granted husbands the power to prevent a mother from travelling with her child or children, it also granted citizens and residents the freedom of travel and movement. The new judgment follows a decision announced last week that a husband divorced by his wife must pay her "deferred dowry", a portion of the dowry payable only after divorce, if there is evidence of abuse. Experts say that ruling would prevent a husband from abusing or harassing his wife with the intent of forcing her to file for divorce, thus forfeiting her financial rights under the marriage contract. Such landmark rulings from the highest court in the country set legal precedent that experts say will influence the continuing reform of the family law system. Dr Amal al Qubaisi, a member of the Federal National Council, described such rulings as a "road map" for lower courts to follow to implement the "spirit" of family law, which ultimately seeks to ensure the integrity of the family. Nashwa al Qubaisi, an Emirati lawyer who deals with marriage disputes, said previous incarnations of family law had "many downsides" that were often abused by both husbands and wives. She said an overhaul of the law was needed to help strengthen the family. "This kind of ruling would definitely help prevent husbands from taking advantage of the family law," she said. In its most recent judgment, the Federal Supreme Court overturned the verdicts of lower courts in Sharjah that banned a mother from travelling with her newborn child because her husband objected. Under UAE family law a mother is not allowed to travel with her child outside the country without written permission from the male guardian of the child. If the guardian refuses, the mother may petition a court for permission to travel. In this case, the Shariah Court rejected the mother's request to travel to Egypt, her home country, with the couple's six-month-old son. On February 22 the Sharjah Court of First Instance withdrew a travel ban issued against the woman, but banned her from travelling with her child.

Both the husband - who is also Egyptian - and the wife appealed to the Sharjah Court of Appeals. On April 1, the appeals court upheld the verdict, and the woman took the case to the Federal Supreme Court. The Supreme Court struck down the rulings of the lower courts after it ruled that the husband intended the woman harm by preventing her from travelling. It also ruled that it was in the child's best interests to be with his mother. "Because the [father of the child] refused to issue the written permission to let the mother travel with the child, arbitrarily and to cause harm, and because this is against the interest of the child, the issued verdict is not legally sound," Justice Falah al Hajeri of the Federal Supreme Court wrote in a court document released yesterday. "Nothing should prevent a mother wishing to travel to take her child with her as long as the child needs to stay with her, such as an infant," he added. Dr al Qubaisi said court officials should consider family law a starting point when examining family disputes. "The family law is not about the man or the woman, it is about the family and its integrity," she said. "The family law should be treated as a starting point that usually takes a while before we realise its shortcomings. "That is why such rulings from the Supreme Court are essential, because it usually has the ability to look at the bigger picture and judge accordingly. "Although the UAE family law is far more advanced than those elsewhere in the region, its development is still very slow." hhassan@thenational.ae