DIVORCE IN THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
By Bassma Al Jandaly
While divorce is permissible in Islam, Sharia makes it a bit difficult for squabbling couples to end the union unless the judge is fully convinced the marriage will not work.
Sharia courts in the UAE accept divorce appeals from Muslim men of various nationalities. Non-Muslim women married to Muslim men can also apply for divorce at these courts.
To apply for divorce, you should be of sound mind and be able to make your own choices.
The first step the couple should do is to register the case at the Moral and Family Guidance Section at the court.
Shortly afterwards, a counsellor will meet the couple and discuss their problems. They are then given a three-month time to try and solve the problems, before beginning the divorce process.
If the couple, or either of them, still insists on divorce, the papers will be forwarded to the court for the judge to study the case. The judge will discuss it with the couple and listen to witnesses. It could take a couple of sessions before the judge makes his decision. The couple need to attend all the proceedings.
A woman may be granted a divorce if she can prove that her husband has physically hurt her or mentally tortured her. A woman also may sue for divorce if her husband abandons her for a period of three months, or if he has not taken care of her needs or that of their children.
The law allows women to obtain a khula - a separation, when she returns the dowry to the husband.
The Sharia Court will accept a divorce lawsuit from Muslim men or Christian or Jewish women married to a Muslim and apply the Islamic laws.
If the divorce applicants are both Muslims, but from different countries and are residents in the UAE, they will be divorced according to the administrative laws in their country, or the UAE law, whichever they wish. While Sharia is same in all Muslim countries, there are a few administrative differences between the various schools of thought.
If the couple are from the same country, the law of their country, will be applied or the UAE law, if they so wish.
If the husband is a Muslim and the woman is not a Muslim, the UAE laws will be applied, or the law of the country where they had got married.
If the couple is non-Muslim, they can seek divorce according to the law of their country, at the embassy or consulate.
Talaq via SMS
A husband can divorce his wife by sending an SMS through a cell phone.
UAE, Kuwait and Malaysia are in favor of using technology to terminate a marriage. This method of ending a marriage holds good only under the Sharia. It has to be confirmed by a Sharia court with both the man and woman present.
The intention of divorce can also be sent by e-mail or by phone. Islamic scholars believe that if the internet has changed the way people are courting, it can also be used to pronounce 'talaq' or divorce.
According to Sharia court, husbands can also send written letters to their wives stating that they have been divorced.
Another means of divorce is by telling the wife over the phone.
If a man divorces his wife by any of these means, she can approach the court with a separation case. But the court will not approve the divorce, if the man denies that he had used any of the above-mentioned methods to divorce.
But if the man admits in front of the judge that he has used any of the above-mentioned methods to divorce, the necessary process of divorce will commence.
However, a Muslim man can end his marriage by telling his wife, "I divorce you" three times.