I am a non-Muslim and have been married to a non-Muslim woman for 5 years. I have a 3-year-old son and a 5-year-old girl. My wife is currently asking me for a divorce without reason, and if I do not divorce her, she will file a divorce suit according to the new law. My question, according to the new law, am I obligated to divorce her? In the event of divorce, is she entitled to claim custody of my children? Please advise.
To answer such question, I would advise the questioner that:
It is permissible for either spouse to request a divorce without the need to prove the harm, according to the form prepared for that, and the divorce takes place by court ruling after notifying the other party. According to Article 7 of Federal Decree-Law No. 41 of 2022, the spouses can request for divorce and be granted if either spouse expresses in court his/her desire to separate and terminate the marriage, without any need to justify their reason, to demonstrate harm, or to put the blame on the other party.
The parental responsibility for children shall be shared by both the father and mother until the child becomes 18 years of age where he will have the right to choose one of his parents.
As per Article 10 of the new law, custody of children is a right granted to both the father and the mother equally, as well as it is a right of the children to have both parents raise them, to minimise the psychological effect of divorce on the children .
The primary rule in terms of custody is that the father and the mother shall have joint custody over the children after the divorce, unless the two parties submit a request to the court to grant custody to whoever is capable of achieving the best interests of the child, or one of them requests a written waiver before the court of his right to custody, or submits a request to the court to exclude the other party from joint custody for any reason accepted by the court, such as incapacity, danger of such custody, or the party failing to perform their duties.
In the event of a disagreement between the father and the mother regarding any matter of joint custody, either of them has the right to submit an application to the court to object, or to request the intervention of the court to decide on the matter in dispute.
The court will have the discretionary power to decide what it deems appropriate for the interest of the fostered child, based on the request of either parent after the divorce.
In conclusion, Federal Decree Law No. 41 of 2022 on Civil Personal Status for Non-Muslims provides non-Muslim residents the option to follow the laws of their home country or select alternative personal status laws in effect in the UAE over the provisions of this Decree Law. Which means that you have the right to choose to apply another law in case you do not want to apply the rules of this new Law No. 41 of 2022.