Explained: What is the application process for backdating a marriage in the UAE?

Dubai: What happens when you get married but do not have a marriage certificate to show for it? This was the query raised by a Gulf News reader.

The reader, who requested for her name to be withheld, spoke about her experience getting married a few years ago in India, but not getting the marriage registered. Under the UAE's law, marriage is the only legal bond for a man and a woman to establish a relationship and form a family. For couples who get married outside the UAE, a marriage certificate needs to be attested by the UAE's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. However, with a marriage certificate missing, what are a person's options?

The reader wrote: "I got married in Mumbai in January 2017. The wedding was at a hotel with no legal document drawn up, or a visit by the registrar. Nor did we head to one as I needed to return to Dubai to start a new job. There was no need for a document for a year or so and we put off the requirement for a legal document, until a query came up for a medical procedure.

"The Consulate and the Hindu temple authorities asked us to re-marry as the wedding cannot be backdated in Dubai. This is when the consulate also advised to get a three-month affidavit from IVS Global, which would serve as a legal document. So, for 90 days we had a document which showed that we were legally married. A year later, we had to let go of an apartment we wanted to move into, because a marriage certificate was not available. We once again consulted with the consulate, which advised us to get a court date in India and get it registered there, where it will be backdated.

"We arrived in India in March, when the coronavirus had started spreading. As we were flying in, we learnt that flights may be restricted in the coming days. Due to the stress of being stranded in India, we returned in 36 hours without the court appointment and flights shut in and out of the UAE 48 hours later. We later called the consulate again, to find out what we could do. They advised us to visit BLS International Services and get each other's name on our passports. This was done and we have new passports with each other's name as spouse.

"We have now been asked to go to IVS for another appointment, where they have told us that they may give us a paper which proves that we are married and which we can also take to MOFAIC to get attested. Is there any other way we can get a marriage certificate with the original marriage date in the UAE?"

Gulf News raised the query with Dr Hassan Elhais, legal consultant at Dubai-based Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultancy, who spoke about what the legal options are for the couple.

Can marriages be backdated in the UAE?

Dr Elhais spoke about how procedures for registering for a marriage certificate do slightly differ, based on whether the person is a Muslim or non-Muslim expat in the UAE, the procedure for backdating a marriage is standard.

"If the spouses have to prove a backdated marriage, they will need to provide proofs to the fact that a traditional marriage was concluded between them. In order to do this, they will need to file a case before the UAE Personal Status Courts for the recognition of their marriage," Dr Elhais said.

"In the court, the spouses will need to produce two male witnesses to testify that the woman's guardian, who is generally the woman's father, attended the marriage ceremony and accepted the marriage. Furthermore, they should also provide testimony of the fact that the woman received a ring or gift in dowry," Dr Elhais said.

If the spouses have to prove a backdated marriage, they will need to provide proofs to the fact that a traditional marriage was concluded between them. In order to do this, they will need to file a case before the UAE Personal Status Courts for the recognition of their marriage. - Dr Hassan Elhais, legal consultant at Dubai-based Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultancy

In case the father was not present at the traditional marriage, there are clear laws that state who would be considered the guardian (an elder brother, uncle, etc.). Dr Elhais advised couples who may in such a situation to consult with a lawyer who can guide them through the legal procedures and requirements.

The three-month affidavit: What is it?

Dr Elhais also clarified what the three-month affidavit is and how it can assist a couple in such a situation.

"An affidavit is a declaration made by you and signed before the officials of the Consulate. So, it is only the contents of the declaration, which you have stated to be true by virtue of a sworn affidavit. This document only provides your deposition that you are married without any official document to this effect," Dr Elhais said.

He added that having a spouse's name on a person's passport would not aid in making the case for backdating the marriage certificate.

"If the spouses have to prove a case for a request to backdate a marriage, they would need to provide proofs to the fact that a traditional marriage was concluded between the spouses, as mentioned earlier," he said.

He also added that considering the sensitive nature of such cases, couples were advised to seek a lawyer's services to carry out the complete process, to avoid any errors or unnecessary delays.