The Personal Status Law (being Federal Law Number 28 of 2005) is the key legislation that talks about the custody of children in the separation of couples. Article 156 of the Personal Status Law mentions that custody of a minor child will be with the mother till the age of 11 for boys and the age of 13 for girls.
The court considers child custody matters on a case-by-case basis and the decision on the custody is generally mentioned in the judgment of the court. The courts identify the well-being of the child while determining or assigning the custody of the child to the father or the mother. However, the powers of the custodian of the child are limited. The Personal Status Law defines custody as the process of upbringing and caring for the child in a manner that does not interfere with the rights of a child. Therefore, it is very important to understand the difference between the terms guardian and custodian of the children in the UAE. A guardian is responsible to take care of the child financially and deciding the aspects of the child’s life such as religion, and education. The Guardian shall also hold the passport of the child. Whereas, the custodian takes care of the child on a day-to-day basis. Generally, the father is the guardian and the mother is the custodian of the child.
The Family Court in UAE will be able to grant custody of the children to the mother if she is separated from the husband. The mother will be able to file for a custody case and the Family Court will take into consideration the well-being of the children while passing such a judgment.
However, a mother will not be able to take the child out of the UAE without a court order or the father’s permission. Although the mother may have custody of the child, the father is the guardian of the child and the mother would require the father’s consent to travel alone with the child. In situations where the mother has left the family and there is an ongoing dispute between the father and the mother, the father would also be able to file for custody of the children. Therefore, a parent cannot keep a child from another parent, unless such parent has a final judgment in their favour for complete custody of the child, without visitation rights.
Child law is considered very important in the UAE, being one of the first countries in the Middle East to ratify the United Nations Convention on Child Protection. In the UAE, a child is defined as an individual up to the age of 18.
To that extent, the UAE has established an Emirati Children’s Day on 15 March every year since 2016 when the Federal Law Number 3 of 2016 Concerning Child Rights (Wadeema’s Law) was enacted. The UAE child law covers several aspects and aims at protecting children in every aspect of their life. The law states it is mandatory that every child in the UAE is granted proper living standards, access to health benefits, education, equal opportunities in necessary services and access to resources with no discrimination whatsoever. The law aims at protecting children facing any sort of negligence, exploitation, physical and psychological abuses. In addition, it is strictly prohibited under the law to smoke in public and private vehicles and indoor accommodations as long as children are nearby. Penalties forecasted by the law will apply to any violator of such regulation. Concerning healthcare for children, the law dictates that childcare specialists have the power to remove children from their parent’s homes without prior consent given by the parents and without judicial approval if the specialists consider the child is in imminent danger. In cases where the life of the child is not in danger, specialists have the right to visit the child regularly, preparing social services and trying to find a solution between the parents and the child. A prison sentence is foreseen against people who put children in danger by, including but not limited to: abandoning them, neglecting them, leaving them without supervision, not enrolling them in school or not registering them upon their birth.
The amount the husband has to pay to the former wife after the divorce depends on the mutually agreed amount (in mutual divorce) and the amount mentioned in the judgment in a contested divorce. The court shall take into consideration various factors such as the income of the husband, expenses and lifestyle of the wife while determining the exact amount.