Divorce, like other matters of family law, is either governed by UAE law, Shariah law, or by the laws of the individuals’ originating country. If the parties are from different countries, the applicable law is that from where the marriage was solemnised.

The first step in any divorce hearing is to look at reconciliation with the aid of the Family Guidance and Reformation Centre, which functions under the Department of Justice at Dubai Courts. Anyone experiencing marital problems or family disputes can use this service, and you can file a complaint against your spouse by simply providing the centre with copies of your ID (passport or Resident Identity Card) and your marriage certificate.

When to seek legal advice
If counsellors at the centre are unable to help a couple reach an amicable settlement then the case may get referred to the Court of First Instance for legal proceedings to take place. This is when you need to seek legal advice. At this stage you will need to enlist the services of an expat law firm, who can advise you which 'jurisdiction' (either UAE of your home country) is the most appropriate for you in terms of cost, timescale and outcome. If the case is straightforward and uncontested you may not even need to attend court, and you can expect to pay around Dhs.10,000, inclusive of all court fees and other expenses. The procedure is fairly standard for Christian, Roman Catholic and Hindu religions: the couple apply to the court for a decree nisi, stating their reasons for divorce, and if the judge finds the reasons to be convincing, the divorce will be granted.

In cases of custody, the court’s paramount concern is the child’s welfare. In Shariah law, the custody of the child (while a minor) will be the mother’s, unless there are compelling reasons to decide otherwise.

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