Question: I am a non-Muslim resident and I want to divorce my husband as he has failed to support me and my children for more than five years. I have been taking care of myself and my children independently. When I asked him for divorce, he refused and left the country. Can I divorce him in his absence and without his consent?

Answer: According to UAE law, the husband is obliged to provide "maintenance" for his children. This includes food, shelter, clothing, medical care and to cover the costs of employing a housemaid, though only if the wife had a domestic helper when she lived in her father's home. The law also states that a father is obliged to make support payments to his sons until they are no longer studying and for their daughters until they are married.

Failure to provide maintenance is grounds for divorce, as is failure to make the support payments.

The wife is entitled to financial support, starting from the date of marriage. If he stops paying the support payments, he will be considered indebted to his wife until the payment is made. He will also be obliged to pay her the total amount of accumulated money from the date he stopped providing for her.

A claim for financial support, for a period exceeding three years from the date of filing a court case, will not be considered unless there is a prior agreement between the couple.

Accordingly, you are entitled to claim reimbursement of your back-dated expenses not exceeding three years.

Article 6/2 of the UAE Personal Status Law allows for you to divorce your husband in his absence, regardless of what your nationalities are.