Egypt: Family Law

Expert Witness

Jeremy D. Morley has appeared as an expert witness on issues concerning the family laws and procedures of Egypt in courts in several U.S. states and in Australia, especially as to international child custody and international child abduction issues.

Notes on International Child Abduction to Egypt

Updated October 2021

  1. The U.S. State Department has formally declared – both currently and throughout the past several years -- that Egypt is “noncompliant” with the purposes of the Hague Convention, adheres to no protocols concerning international child abduction, and does not cooperate with the U.S. Government concerning efforts to return abducted American children. The U.S. Government has reported to Congress that unresolved cases in Egypt have taken an average of 4.8 years to be concluded and that that it has issued many diplomatic protests against Egypt for this reason.
  2. Egypt has not signed the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
  3. Article 2 of the Constitution of Egypt of 2014 provides that, “Islam is the religion of the State… The principles of Islamic Sharia are the main source of legislation.” All matters concerning the guardianship and custody of Muslim children in Egypt are governed by Sharia law of the Hanafi School of Islam, except to the limited extent that specific statutes concerning personal status have been enacted as to specific issues. Such statutes have not significantly modified the traditional Hanafi Sharia law rules of guardianship and child custody except for matters concerning the age of the children and the selection of a school for a child.
  4. Egyptian law does not authorize any sharing of parental responsibility. Under Hanafi Sharia law as applied in Egypt the functions of parenting are divided on gender grounds between the father and the mother.
  5. The residential custodian of a child is required to be the mother or another female relative, in the absence of specific contraindications, and she has the responsibility of living with the child and providing physical care and upbringing, normally until the age of 12 for girls and ten for boys. However, the Personal Status Law has modified that rule and specifically provides that a mother shall retain residential custody of a child until he or she is 15 years old and provides that the court may extend this until the child is age 21.
  6. A mother will lose residential custody if she remarries. She will also lose custody if she is otherwise deemed unfit, in which case the Egyptian courts recognize an order of preference of alternate adult custodians with priority given to the mother's family in the following order:  maternal grandmother or great-grandmother; paternal grandmother or great-grandmother; maternal aunt; paternal aunt; maternal niece; paternal niece.  Only if these relatives do not exist, will the right of custody shift to a male.
  7. Based on the expert evidence of international family lawyer Jeremy D. Morley and another expert, the Superior Court of Washington for King County ruled that there is "clear and convincing evidence that Egyptian child custody laws violate fundamental principles of human rights, " such that Washington State should not treat Egypt as a "state" for purposes of the Uniform Child Custody & Jurisdiction Act.
  8. The removal of a child by the non-custodial parent to or within Egypt is not a crime in Egypt unless the child is subject to Egyptian court-ordered travel restrictions. 
  9. A left-behind parent must work within the Egyptian court system in order to obtain legal custody of the child in Egypt.
  10. Egyptian mothers of children born to a non-Egyptian father may request an Egyptian passport for the child from any Egyptian consulate.
  11. Foreign custody orders are not generally recognized in Egypt and will not be given any weight unless they are deemed to be in compliance with Sharia law.
  12. By law, visitation depends on the willingness of the custodial parent.
  13. In 2003, the U.S. and Egypt signed a Memorandum of Understanding that purportedly confirms both countries' commitment to facilitating parental access to children in the other country.  However, the Memorandum does nothing but provide for the possibility of some access in Egypt. It does not address international child abduction. In practice it has no teeth and is relatively meaningless.
  14. In July 2021, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo delivered a demarche notifying the Egyptian government that the Department had cited Egypt in the 2021 Annual Report for demonstrating a pattern of noncompliance and once again requesting Egypt's assistance with resolving reported cases. Similar diplomatic protests have been issued in several prior years, with no resulting change in Egypt's policies.

Providing wise and experienced legal counsel to international families for many years

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