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Advice from Divorce Lawyers in the UAE Image Credit: Picryl

Divorce lawyers. They see it all. The fights, the drama, the money disputes and so much love lost.

"I think that there is a societal taboo against filing for divorce. But to trust in the legal system, enter litigation and file for divorce is not an evil or shameful thing to go. However, once a couple begins that process it is imperative that they act appropriately and reach as amicable an agreement as possible. It is also worth bearing in mind that in cases where children are involved, the parties will be forever linked by their parental responsibilities, and agreeing on how best to raise their children is much easier if the divorce is handled cordially." Isa Bin Haider told Gulf News. He is the founder of Bin Haider Advocates and Legal Consultants

"According to the UAE Government, divorce rates here in the UAE are among the highest in the region. Indeed, according to recent findings, one in four marriages in the past decade has ended in divorce and one in three couples divorce within the first year of marriage" continues Bin Haider.

“People know that matters discussed with lawyers are confidential, so clients do feel comfortable opening up about the details of their lives and share their experiences and problems” Nita Maru told Gulf News. Nita Maru is a Solicitor and Managing Partner at TWS Legal Consultants.

All the lawyers we spoke to said that a marriage doesn’t break, it tends to erode over time. Devanand Mahadeva, a fourth generation lawyer told Gulf News. “I used to handle an average of one divorce case a month. I now see four to five couples getting divorced each month” Devanand Mahadeva, heads the Inheritance and Personal Lines Practise of the Goodwins Group in the UAE. “I want to give advice to both the couple as well as their extended families” he stressed. “External factors like family involvement in a marriage has such a big influence”.

“Although I am a Family Lawyer, my work is predominantly about divorce. 80 per cent of my clients come to me with divorce as the main request.” Dee Popat told Gulf News. Dee Popat told Gulf News. Dee Popat is the Head of the Family Department /Senior Legal Consultant / Solicitor at James Berry Associates Legal Consultants.

So what would a UAE lawyer, who deals with divorce say to a couple just about to get married?

1. Don’t let your extended family interfere

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Most issues I come across, especially in this region, is because of couples involving their families too much in their life. Whether it’s decision-making, fighting there is generally a strong presence of extended family members in a couple's day-to-day lives. Couples need to learn to sort things out on their own. Family interference is cited to me as the most common reason to why people become frustrated with each other and therefore separate. Keep your problems private and solve them together as a team.

- Devanand Mahadeva

 

2. Marriage is not a fairy-tale

 

It is so important to be aware of expectations that your partner has of marriage before getting involved on such a serious level. Human beings have only ever wanted to show the rest of the world how happy and successful they are. We don’t ever want to show that we are struggling. So in order to keep up appearances, people share photos of their best moments together. Publically, they act in a very doting way. But marriage is hard and it’s important to understand what the other person expects in this union.

- Dee Popat

3. Make sure you have the basics down

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The most important thing is to have mutual respect towards each other, as well as trust, love and commitment. The next most important is open channels of communication. That is imperative.

- Nita Maru

3. Again… Communication

People need to talk! I am not sure what it is, but most people just aren’t trained to communicate well. It is so important for couples to ask how the other is doing, what their troubles are, what they need and how they feel.

- Devanand Mahadeva

3. One more time... Communication

Ultimately, most of these issues are caused by a lack of communication, dialogue between partners and the ability to discuss any problems or issues that the family are facing is integral to a successful marriage. This allows for empathy, an understanding of your partner’s perspective and compromise, this is often lacking in the divorce cases that come to us. Other common causes for divorce in the UAE include infidelity, recent job loss, financial strain, religious & cultural differences, unrealistic expectations and interference of the couple’s family members

-Isa Bin Haider

4. Watch your wedding video every year

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After years of marriage, many people tend to forget how they first felt when they fell in love. So make sure you regularly read your letters (Emails), look at your old pictures together. All of the couples who come into my office forget about how they used to love each other. They don’t want to see each other anymore and here I am caught in between. I always try to go to the other with an olive branch. They usually don’t want to see each other.

- Devanand Mahadeva

5. Forget about competing with your friends and ignore all the peer pressure!

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Everyone appears to be happy. People tend to show this great exterior image of themselves living the dream life. Marriage looks so appealing to those who aren’t married. But you have to be logical and pragmatic. Just because your friends are married, does not mean that you, as a couple, are there yet. Life is not a competition and you should not do something just because ‘you are supposed to’ or because ‘it’s time’. Many of the divorce cases I work on, cite this reason. “I rushed into it and now I regret it”.

Sometimes there is a strong desire to get married because couples cannot spend as much time together without being married. As a result, many people hurry into it and eventually regret their decision. Taking the time to get to know each other is so very important. So try and spend as much time as possible in close proximity, so you can really understand your partner before marriage.

- Dee Popat

6. Don’t be too independent

It is important for a couple to still need each other. These days men and women are more self-sufficient than ever. Both of them have careers and in most cases both know how to run a household. These are obviously great habits for individuals, but as a couple, it’s necessary for them to need each other. It strengthens their bond.

- Devanand Mahadeva

7. If you have kids, you should focus on your partner even more

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Usually when a child comes along, all the focus is placed on them. However, it is extremely important to make time to connect with one another as a couple on a regular basis. Date nights are invaluable as it gives the couple exclusive quality time together especially if they have busy working schedules. Date nights help to update each other and opens communication on matters such as feelings, any issues that need resolving (avoids escalating them) and generally gives the opportunity for a couple to enjoy their beloved’s company.

- Nita Maru

8. Raise these kids together

Both parents need to have a 50-50 role in raising the kids. Raising kids as a team isn’t always the case in the region, with the mother taking up most of the responsibility. Long working hours and a hectic and demanding social life often triggers the common situation where children can be neglected and family life gets disrupted. Usually the husband is frequently travelling abroad or working long hours, so there is a lack of quality time spent with the wife and children which results in many issues and doesn’t help in building a strong family unit. The mother ends up taking up a lot of the responsibility when it comes to raising children, rather than a more balanced form of parenting.

- Nita Maru

9. Regular visits to couples therapy

Professional help should not be sought out only when something is wrong, it needs to be done as a regular check-up, just like our visits to a GP or a dentist. I refer many of my clients to psychologists, because they are people who can really delve deeper into their issues.

- Devanand Mahadeva

10. Tell each other how much money you earn

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Generally, it is important to just be very honest about money right from the begining. If you have financial problems, be honest about them. I handle many pre-nups at my law firm, so I see the couples who are very honest and open about their finances right from the begining. And those who are not aware about each other’s finances, it leaves a sour taste in their mouth. These are things that need to be discussed. The more you speak to your partner and get to know their tendencies, their spending, their financial issues and habits, the more normal it becomes to discuss it with one another. People don’t talk about their money problems and it could lead to many deeper issues. Financial disputes could even lead to domestic violence both verbal and physical. I have come across it often.

- Dee Popat

11. If you don't love each other, then at least tolerate each other 

Many couples don’t stay in love forever. Eventually they just need to tolerate each other. And in this day and age, where everything is all about instant gratification, our levels of tolerating others have gone down. We need to remember the love and respect we had or still even have for one another.

- Devanand Mahadeva

12. Make sure you always fight fair

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Many of my clients who deal with verbal abuse from their spouses, usually knew about the habit before they got married. Many of them could tell the partner loses his/her temper easily, or doesn’t fight fair. And the mistake that many of them do, is ignore it and wait to deal with it after they get married. It is important to nip it in the bud early on and work with your partner on how to fight fair, rather than fight dirty. Anger is when many people’s true colours come out, so those should be important indicators as to how this person develops over the years.

- Dee Popat

13. Put the phone down when you are together and use it when you are apart

Technology is a big distraction in a relationship. However, distractions come in all shapes and forms, not just restricted to technology. In our experience, if one partner is unwilling or unable to put the phone down and set aside time to connect on a one-to-one basis with the spouse then this results in resentment and distance forming between the couple. On the other hand, technology can also be used to a couple’s advantage if used in an inclusive and not excluding way. Including your spouse in your day when apart by messaging can be a topic of conversation later over dinner. When travelling, technology can be used to bring a couple together with the use of online video calling facilities. As with many things, technology is not inherently negative and has its advantages. However, we decide whether to use it to as a tool to isolate ourselves within the relationship or use it to bring us closer to our other half.

- Nita Maru

14. Wait until you are ready before you have children

So many of my clients have been rushed into having children because their in-laws were nagging. Children are a blessing, for sure, but I wish people would stop doing that. In this day and age, a couple needs to be so, so ready for a kid. You have to be mentally financially and emotionally ready. You have to be ready to give up your free time and so much of who you used to be. Many couples need to spend some time together, building the foundations of a healthy marriage, before they can introduce someone else into the mix.

- Devanand Mahadeva

15. Physical and emotional Intimacy. Make time for it!

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A lack of Intimacy can often be ignored between a couples but is usually cited as one of the reasons why a spouse will stray during the course of the marriage. Couples often work long hours and return home too tired to make the effort required to enquire with their spouse about their day etc. which can lead to a chasm of isolation which continues often until breaking point. Intimacy is not necessarily physical but also includes the act of opening up to another fully that there is no fear of reproach or rejection from the other side. In this era of online distractions and temptation it is important for couples to set aside time to connect with each other regularly to provide the reassurance the other party may be seeking.

- Nita Maru

"Sexual intimacy, between a married couple, is as much of an important aspect to their relationship as an open dialogue. Through their intimacy, a couple is brought closer together and it works in tandem with their communication to create a loving and respectful partnership."

- Isa Bin Haider

16. Divorce is sometimes the best solution

Sometimes divorce is good. If you look at a pattern normally divorces happen in the first 2 or 3 years or after 20 to 22 years. The longer ones are the couples that tend to stick together because of the kids. And the former case, are the ones who were too young perhaps, or not right for each other and they wanted to put a stop to it before their lives progressed any further. It is important to be happy in life. Don’t live with someone who makes you miserable, but make sure you take your time choosing your partner and allow time to get to know your partner.

- Devanand Mahadeva

Extra: Advice to the In-Laws.

If you want your children to have a successful marriage, stop getting involved in your child’s marital problems. Stop rushing them to have their children. Stop taking sides. Stop being too emotional. You have to be more pragmatic and teach them how to fight fair. Teach them to solve their problems, instead of giving them a solution. Pull away when needed and give them their space to grow as a couple.