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Family Law & Consequence in the UAE

We have worked on several family matters in the UAE, most involving other EU countries. Certainly countries will take foreign Court orders into account in their decision making, though this is a complex area of law. The UAE Courts will not recognise Family Court Orders from other jurisdictions and remain autonomous on such matters. For some clients, this has worked in their favour and for others, it has unfairly prohibited them from access to their children.

Where children are involved, it is very important that jurisdiction is taken into account in the event of a divorce. Countless parents have been caught up in Family disputes in the UAE where the results and orders can be quite different to Europe, causing considerable heartache for those involved.

One particular issue that we have seen is a father using some failings in the legal system to open cases against the mother in order to achieve his desired family court result.

We received a letter from a European father today (below) who has tried to seek remedy in the EU Courts, to no avail.

"Mr AA, a EU citizen, was working in UAE as a University Professor. In April-May 2009 he filed in the courts of his native Member State a petition for a divorce by the wife and requested the exclusive custody rights for his two sons.

Shortly after, his wife made parallel applications in the courts in her Member State, B. A month later and without withdrawing her applications filed in her Member State, his wife filed another one in the UAE courts. Mr AA despite his efforts to explain to the court in the UAE that this case was a EU case (conflict of laws rules) and following specific EU conflict of laws Regulation (EC) sole jurisdiction (lex forum) on this EU cross-border family law dispute was of the courts in Member State A, the courts in UAE have exercised UAE jurisdiction issuing a judgment on the divorce and the custody of the children, in breach of EU cross-border family law jurisdiction, see below. This breach of public international law on jurisdiction by a UAE courts has a very serious implication between inter-government EU member states, EC Council, EC Commission and UAE.

During the summer and while the children were staying in the father’s home, a court issued protective measures under article 20 of the Regulation Brussels II prohibiting the children from leaving that Member State. Once his wife was informed about this she manag