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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Woman accused of bigamy wins case at third attempt

Court of Cassation rules in favour of Nigerian woman involved in custody battle with husband, who accused her of still being married to her ex.

A mother accused of bigamy by her husband during a custody battle over their 8-year-old son has won the case at the final hurdle after two courts had found her guilty.

The Nigerian was accused by her countryman husband of still being married to her first husband but after rulings against her at the Personal Status Court and the Court of Appeal, she won the case at the Court of Cassation, Dubai’s highest court.

Under Sharia law used in the UAE, a man can marry more than one woman but a woman cannot have more than one husband.

The husband filed the case against her in 2015. He told the court that they got married in their home country in August 2004 and that he believed at the time she was divorced from her first husband, with whom she has a daughter.

After the couple moved to Dubai, he said he converted to Islam, which caused many problems between them and resulted in his wife leaving him and taking their son.

He claimed that he sent her an email asking her to come back but she never did and, during the time she was away, he found papers at their home stating that she was still married to her first husband.

The wife denied the allegations, telling judges that she was divorced before marrying her second husband. She submitted a divorce certificate but it was dated June 22, 2012.

She also said that she didn’t leave but was kicked out by her second husband and that she had been supporting herself and her son as he was refusing to help cover their living costs.

However, last year the court convicted the woman of being married to two men at the same time, rendering the second marriage illegal and leaving their son to be seen in the eyes of the law as a product of a sexual relationship outside of wedlock. It also rejected the husband’s request for a divorce as the court seen it as they were not married anyway.

Both the defendant and her husband appealed the verdict but the sentence was upheld by the Court of Appeal, which ordered the woman to be referred to prosecutors.

“The court referred her to prosecution to be investigated for sex outside of wedlock that resulted in her having a son - she could have been jailed and deported if we didn’t prove her innocence,” said lawyer Awatif Mohammed, from Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants, who took the case to the Court of Cassation.

The lawyer managed to prove, backed by documents, that the woman was a victim and that she was kicked out of her home because she converted to Islam and that she had been living on her own for three years before the husband filed the case. Her husband only converted later on.

“We also made contact with authorities at Lagos Court [in Nigeria], where our client got divorced, and managed to obtain a document stating that she was, in fact, divorced before getting married to the plaintiff but the divorce letter was issued at a later date,” said Ms Awatif.

The lawyer presented her defence argument and the cassation court promptly overturned the rulings of both lower courts, announcing that the woman was innocent from a bigamycharge.

She was granted custody of her son and also her wish to be separated from her second husband.

The court ordered him to pay Dh7,500 in alimony per month in addition to Dh60,000 a year for housing purposes and Dh15,000 in a one-off payment for furniture. He was also ordered to pay all educational fees for his son as well as the legal fees of the case. He was also granted visitation rights to see his son.

The verdict, which was made a month ago but only came to light on Wednesday, is now final and cannot be appealed.