UAE: Expat lawyers to argue cases in non-Muslim family courts

The department confirmed that both Emirati and foreign judges would be granted the right to serve at the court. It said that opening up proceedings to ex-pat lawyers was under consideration.

Abu Dhabi is all set to take a call on amending laws to allow expatriate lawyers to represent cases at the non-Muslim family court, in the capital city of the United Arab Emirates. Currently, only UAE citizens are permitted to act as counsel in the courts.

The department confirmed that both Emirati and foreign judges would be granted the right to serve at the court. The department officials stated that opening up proceedings to ex-pat lawyers was under consideration.

The court will deal with all cases related to marriage, custody, divorce, paternity, inheritance, and personal status. The sessions will be held in Arabic and English to eliminate language barriers and ensure transparency.

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“It does make sense to have a dedicated court that has its own procedure and is bound by its own procedural rules. In certain cases, the family law for non-Muslims aims at much quicker decisions. This is a very important step, both for the court and the law itself,” said Dr Lena-Maria Moeller, New York University Abu Dhabi speaking to The National News.

“Previous statistics have shown that the majority of non-Muslims, mostly foreigners, would be hesitant to frequent the regular family courts. And if they did, then they would often not make use of the right to have their own laws from their home country applied, and the courts themselves would be very hesitant to apply foreign law,” she added.

Non-Muslims will have the privilege of choosing the law of their own country over the Sharia of the Islamic country, especially in issues of inheritance and divorce.

“So, non-Muslim couples would either go to the local courts and have their marriage and the divorce regulated by Islamic law and those who can afford to travel home frequently would travel to have their family affairs regulated in the home country,” Dr Moeller said.

She said that a dedicated court for non-Muslims would lead to speedier justice.

The move will be a part of the new legislation that was introduced last month to support ex-pats and bring the city in line with international practice and attract global talent.

The courts will also ensure joint and equal custody of children in case of divorce with procedures to settle all disputes. The changes in the inheritance laws for non-Muslims ensure that if a person dies without a will, their inheritance is divided equally between their spouse and children.

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