Friday, January 23, 2015


Prof. Gabriel Sawma

The law of marriage and divorce in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is governed by the Personal Status Law (PSL), no. 28, 2005. Reconciliation before divorce in marital conflicts has always been applied between the spouses prior to the codification of the PLS. The Committee of Family Guidance is prescribed by Articles 16, 117(2), 118, 119, 120, and 121. Article 16 states the following:
“No case at the court of Personal Status will be heard until it has been looked at by the Committee of Family Guidance (Lijnat al-Tawjeeh al-Ussree).”
The Explanatory Memorandum says that this mandatory procedure is “out of respect for the family, in preservation of its cohesion, and in protection of the secrets of the home.” Such a requirement allows the emirates to extend its involvement in the regulation of disputes between married couples. This suggests that a woman seeking khul’ or divorce on the grounds of injury will have to pass through mediation efforts by the Committee of Family Guidance, a daunting prospect for a woman seeking divorce from her abusive husband.
Consequently, a divorce proceeding in the UAE begins when one spouse initiating his or her intent to terminate the marriage without the need to a lawyer. The reconciliation process offers the couples an opportunity to discuss their conflicts and attempt to resolve them before the case is presented to the court. At this stage there an opportunity is given to both sides to reach a settlement and sign it before in the presence of the Committee. If the parties insist on divorce, the conciliator will provide the parties with a letter, permitting them to proceed with the divorce before the court. The letter is submitted to the court within three months from its date.
An exception to the reconciliation rule includes cases of inheritance and wills, provisional and accelerated petitions including urgent provisional orders for maintenance and custody, and claims where reconciliation is not an issue.
The codification of Personal Status Law of the United Arab Emirates is presented as Islamic shari’a-based law whatever the court system is and whatever the training of judges is. Under Islamic law, termination of marriage between Muslim couples should not take effect before all means of reconciliations have been exhausted; when reconciliation fails, divorce will be the last alternative. This practice is supported by the Quran, “If you fear a breach between them [husband and wife], appoint two arbiters, one from his family, and the other from hers; if they wish for agreement, God will cause their reconciliation.” (Quran 4: 35)

DISCLAIMER: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

Gabriel Sawma is a lawyer with Middle East background, and a recognized authority on Islamic law of marriage, divorce and custody of children, Hindu marital disputes in U.S. courts, and Iran divorce in USA.
  • Professor of Middle East Constitutional and Islamic law,
  • Expert Consultant on Islamic divorce in US Courts and Canada,
  • Expert Consultant on Hindu divorce in U.S. courts,
  • Expert Consultant on Iranian Shi’a divorce in USA,
  • Expert Consultant on Islamic finance.
Admitted to the Lebanese Bar Association; former Associate Member of the New York State Bar Association and the American Bar Association.
Prof. Sawma lectured at the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) in New York State and wrote many affidavits to immigration authorities, Federal Courts, and family State Courts in connection with recognition of Islamic foreign divorces in the U.S., Hindu divorces, and Iranian marital conflicts.
Taught Islamic Finance for MBA program at the University of Liverpool, United Kingdom.
Travelled extensively to: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Syria and Palestine.
Wrote many articles on Islamic and Hindu divorce in USA, custody of children in the Middle East and Central Asia; and on abduction of children to Muslim countries;
Speaks, reads and writes several languages including Arabic, English, French and others.
Interviewed by:

Contact Information:

Tel. (609) 915-2237

For more information on the law of marriage, divorce, and custody of children in the United Arab Emirates, please read the articles listed on or websites at:

For more information on the author, please see Curriculum Vitae at this link:

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