News from the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, is that the country has modernized its divorce laws. The county has issued new rules governing divorce, inheritance, and child custody for non-Muslims living in the emirate.
Bridging the Divorce Gulf
Abu Dhabi is one of seven sheikhdoms that make up the UAE and the new law affects only this sheikhdom. While the oil-rich emirate is the capital of the nation, Abu Dhabi’s population is dwarfed by that of neighboring Dubai.
The report on Sunday said Abu Dhabi would create a new court to handle these cases, which will be held in Arabic and English to be better understood by the emirate’s vast foreign worker population.
This latest development comes after news that more than half of all Emirati couples in Abu Dhabi face divorce within the first four years of marriage, according to research conducted by the Department of Community Development.
The emirate previously launched an initiative to raise awareness about the importance of seeking professional help at the first signs of conflict, with the aims of reducing divorce rates in the early stages of marriage.
Change in child custody will allow parents to share joint custody of their children, WAM reported. The law – which consists of 20 articles – also introduces the idea of civil marriage, allows wills to be drawn up granting inheritance to whomever a person chooses, and deals with paternity issues.
It is set to provide “a flexible and advanced judicial mechanism for the determination of personal status disputes for non-Muslims”, the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department said, according to The National newspaper.
Florida Religion and Divorce
I’ve written about the intersection of religion and divorce before – especially as it relates to vaccinations. Religion, religious beliefs, and religious practices are not statutory factors Florida courts consider when determining parental responsibility.
Nor is religion an area in which a parent may be granted ultimate responsibility over a child. Instead, the weight religion plays in custody disputes grew over time in various cases.
One of the earliest Florida cases in which religion was a factor in deciding parental responsibility restricted one parent from exposing the children to that parent’s religion.
The Mother was a member of The Way International, and the Father introduced evidence that The Way made the mother an unfit parent. He alleged The Way psychologically brainwashed her, that she had become obsessed, and was neglecting the children. The trial judge awarded custody to the mother provided that she severs all connections, meetings, tapes, visits, communications, or financial support with The Way, and not subject the children to any of its dogmas.
The Mother appealed the restrictions as a violation of her free exercise of religion. The appellate court agreed, and held the restrictions were unconstitutionally overbroad and expressly restricted the mother’s free exercise of her religious beliefs and practices.
Following that, and other decisions, Florida courts will not stop a parent from practicing their religion or from influencing the religious training of their child inconsistent with that of the other parent.
When the matter involves the religious training and beliefs of the child, the court generally does not make a decision in favor of a specific religion over the objection of the other parent. The court should also avoid interference with the right of a parent to practice their own religion and avoid imposing an obligation to enforce the religious beliefs of the other parent.
Modernizing an Insular Peninsula
The new law comes after authorities last year said they would overhaul the country’s Islamic personal laws, allowing unmarried couples to cohabitate, loosening alcohol restrictions and criminalizing so-called “honour killings” – a widely criticized tribal custom in which a male relative may evade prosecution for assaulting a woman he claims has dishonored her family.
At the time, the government said the legal reforms were part of efforts to improve legislation and the investment climate in the country, as well as to consolidate “tolerance principles”.
Abu Dhabi also ended its alcohol license system in September 2020. Previously, individuals needed a liquor license to buy, transport or have alcohol in their homes. The rule would apparently allow Muslims who have been barred from obtaining licenses to drink alcoholic beverages freely.
The UAE as a whole in September this year announced yet another plan to stimulate its economy and liberalize stringent residency rules for foreigners. In January, the UAE announced it was opening a path to citizenship for select foreign nationals, who make up nearly 80 percent of the population.
The UAE last year introduced a number of legal changes at the federal level, including decriminalizing premarital sexual relations and alcohol consumption. These reforms, alongside measures such as introducing longer-term visas, have been seen as a way for the Gulf state to make itself more attractive for foreign investment, tourism and long-term residency.
The broadening of personal freedoms reflects the changing profile of a country that has sought to bill itself as a skyscraper-studded destination for Western tourists, fortune-seekers and businesses. The changes also reflect the efforts of the emirates’ rulers to keep pace with a rapidly changing society at home.
The Reuters article is here.