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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Explainer: divorces in Abu Dhabi 

The change in the mandatory marriage mediation process and divorce proceedings is significant, but it is unclear how many couples may choose such a path in the first place.

The change in the mandatory marriage mediation process and divorce proceedings is significant, but it is unclear how many couples may choose such a path in the first place.

In the first three months of 2017, more than 5,000 couples registered for divorce in Abu Dhabi. Of these, 4,063 were resolved and 1,082 were referred to court for divorce proceedings.

Judicial authorities were not able to say how many were Muslims, but suggested a very small number go through the mandatory process. This suggests most opt to divorce abroad.

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The new option, to attend divorce mediation meetings with church officials out of course, may ease couple's concerns. But the fact that expats married in civil ceremonies abroad could not ultimately get a divorce through the church would reduce the number of people using the system.

“Very few non-Muslims attend family guidance, either because they are unaware [they can divorce here] or uncomfortable with attending,” said Dr Abdul Hameed Al Hosani, managing director of Abu Dhabi Cassation Court.

That is likely due to the fact that Sharia, or Islamic law, differs significantly to civil codes in countries that many expats come from.

Islamic law does not recognise the concept of communal property, division of property or joint custody.

The wife obtains custody of the children until a specific age while the father retains guardianship, but this can bring unexpected issues.

For example, children may not be able to travel without written consent from the father or legal guardian.

On the other hand, a divorced woman may lose custody of her children if she remarries, but only if the father has objected within six months of her remarrying and another suitable custodian is available.

Women could also waive their right to child support in order to retain custody, in the case of remarriage.

Under Sharia, a woman may claim only maintenance for her children and support for herself for three months after the divorce is finalise.

Divorced women with no children receive only maintenance for there months and nothing else. They retain any assets in their name but have no claim over a husband’s assets. But divorced women may submit evidence to claim compensation for not being financially supported during the final year of the marriage and for moral and emotional damages.

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