The Foreign Office has warned expatriates living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) they could face Sharia Court decisions in divorce, child custody and family law cases.
Naturally, one must follow the law of the jurisdiction where one resides. Unlike England & Wales, the UAE applies Sharia Law which is the Islamic legal system to which Muslims (and not Muslims) must adhere, whilst residing within the jurisdiction. The law of the land varies dramatically to that which is enforced within the British family courts and this is where problems occur.
UAE Law permits expatriates the right to have their case heard under Islamic Sharia Law despite not being a follower of the faith. It has today been reported that a British mother lost custody of her son to her French ex-husband after a hearing in a Sharia Court in the UAE.
Earlier today she told BBC's Asian Network (a popular Radio network heard by many Muslims across the UK) that had she known Sharia Law could be used by non-Muslims in court cases to decide divorce and child custody, she would not have moved to the UAE.
"I can't see my son now until he's 18. I don't even know if my son is dead or alive. [My ex-husband] got custody through false information," she said.
Nick McGeehan the Bahrain, Qatar & United Arab Emirates researcher at Human Rights Watch explained, "First of all, it's the duty of the UAE to investigate and provide women in custody hearings with a fair trial and to ensure the decisions in those custody hearings are in the best interests of the child".
At Slater and Gordon Lawyers we often provide complex specialist legal advice for both Sharia Law and Civil Law cases. In a circumstance like the one mentioned above, we would strongly suggest expert legal advice is sought from our Islamic Law Solicitors in the UK; who regularly work with International Lawyers in the UAE & Subcontinent.
Kaleel Anwar is a Family & Divorce Solicitor specialising in Islamic Sharia Law at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.
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