In this day and age, with easy access to travel, parental child
abduction has become increasingly widespread. Parents forum shop
for the perfect place in order to the keep their child. The United
Arab Emirates happens to be one of those places.
The UAE is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil
Aspects of International Child Abduction, which protects against
the retention of children across international borders and seeks
the return of children to their habitual residence. Nor is it a
party to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement
Act, which gives courts in the child's home state exclusive and
continuing jurisdiction for child custody litigation. UAE courts
also do not enforce foreign custody orders. However there are
certain circumstances in which the UAE has a bilateral treaty with
other countries concerning international child abductors and their
extradition. Generally though, the UAE follows a comprehensive set
of child custody laws set out in its own federal law system.
Often an abduction case in the UAE is treated as a child custody
case. If the court finds that there is an actual case of parental
child abduction, they treat it as a criminal offense. The UAE uses
its own laws to ensure a child's protection, instead of
surrendering the child's fate to a foreign court, whose system
may be unfavorable to the child's welfare. Therefore, a parent
must apply for custody and permission to bring the child back to
his or her habitual residence through the UAE courts.
Residents of the UAE are awarded more protection than
non-residents. However, priority is generally given to the Muslim
father, irrespective of nationality, when the mother is non-Muslim.
Though, in determining matters of custody, courts in the UAE
consider the parents' religion, place of permanent residence,
income, the child's age and gender, and the mother's
subsequent marital status. With reference to non-Muslims, the laws
of the child's birth place apply, in so far as they do not
conflict with local federal laws. When the case is first presented,
foreign nationals can ask for their case to be heard under the laws
of their country of origin; however, the law of their own country
cannot be applied once the case has started in UAE courts. Normally
the parent, who has fled to the UAE with the child, starts a case
in UAE courts in order to apply local legislation.
A recent case in this area dealt with parental child abduction
over a 4 year old girl, whose father lives in Abu Dhabi and whose
mother lives in the United States. The couple moved to Abu Dhabi in
2007, but the mother took the child and moved back to the US in
late 2008. After the mother left, the father filed in UAE courts
and was awarded custody. In February 2010, a US court awarded the
couple joint custody and forbade the father from taking the child
to the UAE. The father breached this order, resulting in kidnapping
charges against him in the US. The girl is currently living in the
UAE with her father, as the UAE does not enforce foreign custody
There have been an increasing number of parental child abduction
cases in the UAE, due to the fact that they are a non-convention
state and subsequently apply their own civil laws. As a result, the
return of a child in the UAE is quite uncommon.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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