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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

High cost of separation is emotional and financial for Abu Dhabi divorcee 

"In a Christian Church, divorce does not happen so fast like the Sharia court"

In the eyes of the law, 40-year-old Stephanie* is a divorced mother-of-two.

"But in the eyes of God, I am still married," she said.

Stephanie, from Eastern Europe, met her American husband five years ago and was married at a church in Abu Dhabi. She has two sons from a previous marriage.

"I was in love and my sons loved him - he was a father to them."

When her ex-husband suddenly left and moved in with another woman after three years of marriage, she said her life fell apart. "It wasn't just me who was distraught but my kids as well."

After sharing household expenses equally, suddenly Stephanie found herself alone supporting two teenage boys.

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She went to the court's family guidance department for support.

"From there, it went fast. My ex-husband insisted on a divorce and I was basically divorced on the same day. It wasn't messy, there were no lawyers. But I got nothing. He was asked to pay me a three-month settlement, which was Dh30,000, and that was all. He just took off."

She also couldn't afford a lawyer. "I heard that a lawyers fee starts at Dh25,000 and could go as high up as Dh100,000."

Stephanie said that she wasn't entitled to further support because she did not have any children from her ex-husband, despite his considerable wealth.

"The loss isn't just financial - it is also emotional. I didn't get anything and it's not that I wanted money out of him but at least some consideration from the judges.

"Women's lives should be treated with more respect and men who just suddenly decide to leave a marriage and move in with another woman, should be held accountable. Here, all they cared about was the financial settlement. Financial settlements don't heal our scars. In a Christian Church, divorce does not happen so fast like the Sharia court."

Stephanie believes that if a priest was overseeing her case, the outcome may have been different. "Emotionally it would have been easier on us - at least to make the other person understand the gravity of the situation and to draw them back from doing further damage to other people. I never got my chance to say my piece to him," she said.

* The subject's name was changed at her request