The UAE's Flexible Child Custody Laws


The UAE has an interesting legal system for many expatriates, with it's international mix of British business laws, its own criminal code and shariah family law.

Child custody laws are very flexible and discretionary inside the country and while many laws exist, they are all subject to being overruled by the judge if he or she determines to do so is in the child's best interest – a pivotal test in all custody laws.

The primary tenets of child custody laws include the separation of ‘custodian' and ‘guardian'. The ‘custodian' is charged with responsibility of the child's daily care and has physical custody of the child, while the ‘guardian' is given responsibility for financial maintenance and major decisions on education and upbringing. It is possible for one parent to take on roles of both guardian and custodian
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or for those roles to change throughout the child's life.



The laws generally state that the father will be the guardian for the duration of childhood, whereas custodianship rests with the mother until the age of 11 in the case of sons and the age of 13 in the case of daughters. However, these general laws are always subject to the overarching principle of what is in the child's best interests.

In previous cases, certain factors have led custodianship or guardianship to be vested in the other parent than the laws stipulate. For example, custodians are expected to be of sound mind, be honest, mature, capable of raising a child, from from infectious disease and to have not been convicted of a “serious crime”. In some cases, the religion of the parent will also be taken into account, as the courts desire custodians who share the religion of the child.



By Hassan Elhais, United Arab Emirates
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Hassan Elhais
Mr. Hassan Elhais, along with his team of legal consultants and prominent local lawyers across the UAE, has made a name for himself as a renowned specialist in the fields of civil law, company incorporation, construction law, maritime law, banking law, criminal law, family law, inheritance law and arbitration.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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