Women who conceive before tying the knot face uphill battle to get birth certificates for newborns. Picture is for illustrative purpose only Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Pregnant first, married later? No official proof of tying the knot? If the answer is yes, expat couples in the UAE could face an uphill task getting birth certificates for their newborns.

The problem, say experts, is that many of these expatriates living as partners in their countries conceive babies earlier and get married later when they find job opportunities in the UAE. But according to UAE law, if a child is delivered less than 180 days from the date of the marriage certificate, the child will not be given a birth certificate, and the matter is referred to court.

Advocate Khalid Abdel Wahab, founder of Al Midfa Lawyers,  Dubai told XPRESS:  “Many countries and cultures from where these expatriates relocate to the UAE do not require them to be married to have babies.  But the UAE needs a valid marriage certificate to issue a birth certificate for a child being born in this jurisdiction.”

He said: “The problem is that many expatriates in their country live in as partners and conceive babies, but they are forced to get married if they find opportunities and relocate to this country. Sometimes, the woman is pregnant prior to marriage by over four to five months and she then delivers the child in this jurisdiction. “

Citing two recent instances which his company referred to court, he said the couples in both cases said that they were not aware of the UAE laws about early pregnancy and they thought that it was enough to be married before relocating. “One case I dealt with involved a European couple who lived together for 11 years in Europe. They were husband and wife with two children but had no marriage certificate.  When they relocated to Dubai, the woman was in her last five months of pregnancy. At the time of delivery, the hospital handed over the birth notification to the father based on which he had to submit his documents to Dubai Health Authority (DHA). To procure a registered birth certificate, the parents need to present their passport copies with the visa page and their marriage certificate. In this case, DHA gave him a letter to approach the court.”

He said the couple approached him for assistance. “We learnt that the couple were living as wife and husband for more than 11 years with the full obligations of wife and husband, but they did not have a marriage certificate because it was not required in their country.  We came to know they even had a small wedding ceremony and the man gave the woman a ring and the parents of both sides witnessed the ceremony. But the ceremony was not recorded anywhere. So we believe that according to their custom they were married, but did not think of registering a civil marriage, which landed them into a problem in the UAE.”

Court approval

He said he requested a declaration from the father of the wife that they knew their daughter had been married to her husband for 11 years without a marriage certificate. “The court approved the undertaking as well as the witness statements and recognised the marriage and considered this baby as their third child, and after the judgment was issued the couple could get the birth certificate.  The matter in court went on for about five months.”

According to Wahab, UAE law does not allow any kind of sexual relationship out of marriage.  “Therefore, it is a crime to have any sexual relationship without marriage.  The punishment is different from act to act.  Having babies out of wedlock is a crime.  There’s also a problem when people get married after the woman is pregnant just because they are relocating to the UAE.”

He said: “If the delivery of the child happens less than 180 days from the marriage certificate, then the child will not be given a birth certificate and the matter is referred to court.  To get a birth certificate for the child in this part of the world, a marriage certificate between the parents of the child is a must.”

Not on time

Meanwhile, social worker C.P. Matthew of Valley of Love said several married couples also face problems getting birth certificates for their children as they do not get them registered  on time.

“We have tried to help in at least 50 cases where children did not have birth certificates. To begin with, parents are not aware of UAE law.  In most cases, the parents’ documents were not in order because they were either overstaying or their passports were with their employers or the courts. In some cases, one of the parents was in jail.”

He said under UAE law, the hospital where a child is born issues the birth notification, following which the legal parents must register the birth with the Department of Preventive Medicine. “After this, the parents have to get the document attested by the Foreign Office and subsequently go to their respective consulates to get the birth of their child registered as per their country’s requirements.”

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