We have covered the general laws relating to child custody and visitation rights in the event of a marriage dissolution. While the courts have general guiding laws, these laws are discretionary; the courts will always rule in favour of the child’s best interests. Here are a few good examples to give a flavour of what is possible and where discretion can be applied in the UAE’s complex set of Family Laws.

  • Article 156 of the Personal Affairs Law outlines child custody rests with the mother until the age of 11 for boys and age 13 for girls, at which point custody shifts to the father. However, the same article contains a clause allowing the court discretion to rule in the opposite direction if it is deemed to be in the best interests of the child.
  • Likewise in Article 145 of the same law, it is decreed the mother should not have custody of the child if she is of a different religion. A similar clause allowing the courts to decide to overrule this article exists, as long as to do so would be in the child’s interests.
  • The court even had discretion written into laws when to grant an exception to would seem, on the face of it, counterproductive to ensuring the child’s best interests. For example, Article 144 of the Personal Affairs Law states that a mother that has remarried shall not be awarded custodianship; however, a further clause asserts the court may deem it to be in the child’s interests to stay with the mother even though she has remarried.

The UAE’s family laws are among the most complex in the entire legal system; however, they allow a certain range of flexibility for a judge to make orders that best meet the needs of the child.