Family law concerns for British expats living in the UAE

In its guidance on living in the UAE, the Foreign Office has recently warned expatriates that the UAE Personal Affairs Law, which is based on Islamic principles, may apply to foreign nationals in child custody and divorce cases. It has been reported by the BBC recently that a British mother lost custody of her son to her French ex-husband following a custody hearing in a Sharia Court in the UAE. The BBC also reported that another British national, Ms. Lorrigan lost custody of her adopted daughter in a Sharia Court in the UAE. It was held that the husband was the main sponsor of their child and Ms. Lorrigan’s husband was awarded custody on that basis. Ms. Lorrigan was finally deported from the UAE in 2011 having being found guilty of working without her husband’s permission. Ms Lorrigan said: “It doesn’t matter if you’re British or not. Any husband of any nationality can use sharia law. I was very naive and didn’t realise it applied to me.” There are variations in the law between the various emirates within the UAE itself, so it is vital to seek specialist advice in such matters. Donohoe & Co have a considerable amount of experience in dealing with divorce and family matters for clients with connections in the UAE and are we attuned to the complex issues that need to be considered. We have worked closely with excellent local lawyers in the UAE to safeguard our clients’ interests when those laws apply. We have also advised clients on how to avoid pitfalls before they happen and ensure all options are available to them in a worldwide context. Knowledge is power – if you are living in the UAE or if you are considering relocating there, please get in touch.

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