According to experts, people who seek divorce and custody may find the personal affairs law baffling but it actually puts the needs of the children first.
In Dubai, the moral and family guidance section in their courts has to examine divorce cases before they can be heard. The committee only allows couples to file divorce if they perceive that reconciliation is unlikely. A husband may file for divorce for any reason. However according to Sharia, if he doesn't have any legitimate grievance, he should compensate his wife and the judge sets the amount. A woman on the other hand may only file for divorce if her husband has abandoned her or if she is suffering personal harm. Other than that, a woman can make a settlement to be granted a divorce. But the amount should not be higher than the dowry. Expatriates filing for divorce have the option to use the laws of their home country. However the personal affairs law only applies if there is no provision in the foreign law related to the litigation, if a couple fails to agree on their country's law or if they fail to provide an attested copy of that law to the court. Custody is only transferred to the father if the child reaches a certain age. Until then children stay with their mother.
Mohammad Al Redha of Al Redha and Co Advocates and Legal Consultants said that under the personal affairs law, a son stays with his mother until the age of 11 and a daughter until the age of 13 but that is not final. He added that a judge can decide if it should be extended until a girl gets married or until the age of puberty for a boy. And while this is happening, the father should support his children and provide a standard of living similar to what they had when they were still living with him.
Supporting children includes food, clothes, accommodation, medical costs and schooling. The father may be exempt from paying for housing if the mother owns the home that she lives in. If education and food costs rise as time passes and the mother find that child support is not enough, she can ask for an increase and the judge will examine her request. The children's father has certain rights, including visitation.
Musalam Tawfig Al Khazraji of Zayed Al Shamsi Advocates and Legal Consultants said, it is compulsory for a husband to always provide alimony for the children as long as he is capable of doing so, until his daughters marry or when can they can earn enough, or until his sons reach the age of 15 and are able to earn enough, except if the son is still pursuing his education. Even if this contradicts the interests of the father, the main objective of the custody is to benefit the children under guardianship. A father waives his rights to custody if he does not request custody for six months after the child has reached the legal age. A woman may also lose custody of a child if she neglects her children, if she remarries or if she is prosecuted for a crime.
But Mr. Al Khazraji said there are exceptions if a woman marries a foreign man and the child is still young enough to need their mother.
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