Many British people and other European citizens do not think twice about packing up and heading to a warmer climate to take on a new and exciting role at work, with many hoping for a better lifestyle for themselves and their family.
In this regard Dubai and the Middle East generally have a lot to offer and are a very attractive option for many people. When you are in a loving relationship and a new adventure is on the horizon the last thing you want to think about is ‘what will happen if it all goes wrong?’ However, the Mackrell Family Law team are urging women, in particular, to think about the consequences for them if things do go wrong while living abroad.
At Mackrell Turner Garrett our family law team are very involved with the expat community in Dubai and are currently working with a number of women based in the country who are going through the breakdown of their relationship.
The difficulties in Dubai are vast and relate not only to matters of finance, but to the more important matter of child custody. The laws in Dubai in relation to both of these matters are often very favourable to the husband and many partners, even those who are non-Muslim, use this to their advantage in the local divorce courts.
Journalist Olga Craig reported the story of Afsana Lachaux, a British lady, who married a French citizen, in The Mail on Sundayon 30 August 2015. They had a son together and lived and worked in Dubai, but when their relationship broke down the Sharia courts determined the matters of their divorce and their son’s custody. Afsana was excluded from the divorce proceedings and the judgments made against her meant that she was divorced from her husband, because she failed to obey him. Due to the nature of the judgement her husband was also awarded custody of their young son.
Afsana’s story is tragic and involved her being found guilty of child abduction and ruled to be an unfit mother. Her passport was seized and she faced years of utter despair trying to fight her case in the Sharia courts.
Our family lawyers at Mackrell Turner Garrett commented on the article as follows:
“We do a lot of work with families in Dubai going through relationship breakdown and we have of course heard some horror stories in relation to how the local courts deal with both financial matters and the care of the children on divorce however, I think Afsana’s story is the saddest we have heard”
“As English lawyers we are actively seeking to raise awareness of the difficulties expats face when divorcing in Dubai and to give practical advice to women in Afsana’s positon”
Alison Green a member of the Mackrell Turner Garett Family Law Team, visit the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on a quarterly basis to provide assistance to expats, particularly in relation to relationship breakdown, inheritance issues and immigration matters. Their next visit to the UAE will take place from 2 -7 October 2015 and they would be happy to meet with any expats who have any legal concerns that they wish to discuss.
During their visit, the pair will meet with the Dubai Business Women’s Council, financial advisers, local lawyers and expat community leaders to discuss the availability of the English Court system to those who reside in Dubai.
In addition they regularly present and undertake a question and answer session for members of an expat relationship breakdown support group in the UAE.
Nigel Rowley, Managing Partner at Mackrell Turner Garrett, said: “The Foreign Office has recently warned expats living in Dubai and the UAE that they could face Sharia courts in divorce or child custody cases, even if they are not Muslim, as personal status law in the UAE provides all expatriates with the right to have their cases heard under Islamic Law.
“The warning comes following a number of cases where non-Muslim British mothers have lost custody of their children to ex-husbands and former partners following Sharia hearings, despite allegations of domestic abuse.
“Alison and Jennifer deal on a daily basis with international divorces and international children proceedings and regularly travel to Dubai to impart their knowledge and assist the British expat community.”
For more information visit the Mackrell Turner Garrett family law page.