In the UAE, divorce decree may be obtained under Sharia Law for Muslim expatriates.
Q-My marriage was solemnised in India. I and my husband work and live in Dubai. We separated a few months ago and are planning to file for a divorce here. We don’t have kids. Can you walk us through the procedure?
We assume that both of you are Indian citizens and are non-Muslims by faith. You and your husband are willing to file divorce in the court based in the emirate of Dubai. We are not aware if you two intend to file a mutual consent divorce or a contested divorce. In Dubai, the Personal Status Court accepts divorce cases filed by individuals who are residents in the UAE.
In the UAE, divorce decree may be obtained under Sharia Law for Muslim expatriates and non-Muslims may apply provisions of Federal Law No. 28 of 2005 concerning personal status (the ‘Personal Status Law’) which allows them to apply own personal laws of their home country under which their marriage was solemnised. This is in accordance with Article 1(2) of the Personal Status Law of UAE which states: “The provisions of this law shall apply to the citizens of the United Arab Emirates unless non-Muslims among them have special provisions applicable to their community or confession. They shall equally apply to non-citizens unless one of them asks for the application of his law.”
You or your husband may initially approach the Family Guidance Section of the Personal Status Court, Dubai along with the below mentioned documents:
- Original and copy of marriage certificate, which is duly notarised, attested by Ministry of External Affairs India, UAE Embassy in India and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Co-operation in the UAE;
- Original Arabic translation of the aforementioned marriage certificate duly attested by a legal translator in the UAE and Ministry of Justice, UAE;
- Original passports or UAE Resident Identity Cards;
- Copy of passport copies, visa pages and UAE resident identity card.
The Family Guidance Section of the Personal Status Court, Dubai will request you to submit an application along with the aforementioned documents and upon verification of the documents, they will call you over telephone or inform you by email regarding the first meeting with the family counsellor in the Family Guidance Section of the Personal Status Court. Since, you both are willing to seek a divorce, you may together meet the family counsellor in the first meeting or else you can go separately on different dates as informed by the family counsellor.
The family counsellor will listen to your grievances and will make his or her efforts to reconcile the differences between the two of you to save the marriage. In the event you both or one of you disagree to reconcile, the family counsellor will provide you another date and will ask you to bring the terms of divorce/settlement if you have decided to mutually divorce. Thereafter, on the said meeting, the family counsellor will look into your terms on which you are willing to seek divorce and will draft an agreement in Arabic. Upon informing you the contents of the divorce settlement agreement, both of you will be accompanied by the family counsellor to the judge’s chamber and the mutual divorce judgment will be passed by the judge if he feels the grounds to grant divorce are met by you and your husband.
However, in the event one of you disagrees on the terms of divorce or is not willing to divorce on the final meeting with the family counsellor, you may mention the same to him/her. The family counsellor will hear you and issue a letter to both of you or one of you which allows you to approach the Personal Status Court directly and apply for contested divorce. The said letter issued by the Family Guidance Section of the Personal Status Court will be valid for 90 days.
While you approach the Personal Status Court directly upon completion of Family Guidance Section requirements, you may engage services of a legal counsel and file for divorce in the court submitting all the required documents and the letter issued by Family Guidance Section of the Personal Status Court in case the divorce is contested between you and your husband. If you are a Hindu, Jain, Buddhist or a Sikh, you are entitled to submit the legalised translation of the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 of India and may apply the grounds of divorce mentioned in the said law.
Further, if you are a Christian, Parsi or a Jew, you need to apply the legalised translation of the Indian Divorce Act of 1869. Those who had inter-faith marriages or had marriages only through registration (without religious rituals) may apply for divorce by submitting the legalised translation of the Special Marriage Act of 1954 of India. If one of the parties to the marriage is a foreigner or if Indians married in the Indian Embassy or Indian Consulate abroad, they may apply for divorce by submitting the legalised translation of Foreign Marriage Act of 1969 of India. Muslims are entitled to apply the Sharia Law as its provisions are broadly uniform throughout the world. However, they may inform the Personal Status Court regarding the local customs related to marriage for Indian Muslims while applying for divorce.
It should be noted that divorce by mutual consent granted in the UAE under Personal Status Law is valid in India. However, in case of contested divorce, non-Muslims are advised only to apply on the aforementioned laws under which they are married while applying for divorce. If non-Muslims do not apply the laws under which they are married, such divorces granted by foreign courts may not be valid in India. Further, both parties to the marriage should to be present or should be represented by a legal counsel. If one of the parties to the divorce is absent and do not agree to accept the jurisdiction of the UAE Personal Status Court, the divorce granted by UAE Personal Status Court will be ex parte judgment (judgment in absentia). Such divorce is valid in the UAE, however, ex parte divorce judgments granted by foreign courts may be challenged in India.
Know the law
The provisions of Personal Status Law of UAE shall apply to the citizens of the UAE unless non-Muslims among them have special provisions applicable to their community or confession. They shall equally apply to non-citizens unless one of them asks for the application of his law.
Ashish Mehta is the founder and Managing Partner of Ashish Mehta & Associates. He is qualified to practise law in Dubai, the United Kingdom, Singapore, and India. Full details of his firm on: www.amalawyers.com. Readers may e-mail their questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org or send them to Legal View, Khaleej Times, PO Box 11243, Dubai