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April 14, 2016



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UAE Family Matters Q&A: A 'Marriage' Not Recognised by Local Law

Question: I am a non-Muslim European who has worked in the UAE for six years. I was married to a Muslim woman in Europe, but last year we were divorced and signed a divorce agreement, including a financial settlement that I had to pay to her in full in one payment. She agreed that she would not pursue legal action against me elsewhere, or to claim more money from me. After taking the money, she now refuses to comply with the agreement and is threatening to open a case against me in the UAE. She refuses to leave my rented flat and refuses to allow me to cancel her residency visa. What can I do to get her to adhere to the divorce agreement made in Europe?

Answer: Any marriage between a Muslim woman and a non-Muslim man is not recognised under the Personal Status laws of the UAE. Therefore, your marriage was not valid under UAE law. Article 235 of the UAE Civil Law relates to the execution of judgments passed by a foreign court but, in your case, this cannot be done because the contract of marriage itself is not recognised. As a result, your former wife has no rights over you since the marriage did not happen, as far as UAE law courts go. So she is not entitled to any compensation. The residency visa may be cancelled by the sponsor at any time by approaching the immigration department. They may or may not require your former wife's original passport to cancel the visa.

Question: We are a western expatriate family living in the UAE. My wife has four children, one from me and three from her previous marriage. We are now going through divorce proceedings. Before the divorce procedure, I was providing for all four children. My question is: will I have to continue to support the three children from her previous marriage after the divorce?

Answer: UAE law states that a person has to support only a biological child after divorce, so even if you were supporting the other three children before your separation, you will not be liable to support them after the divorce is finalised.

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