A new committee has been helping Dubai judges make decisions in child custody cases.
The six-member team was formed in April after a decision by Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed, Deputy Ruler of Dubai.
It provides Dubai Court of Personal Status with detailed reports to help protect children.
“Before this committee was formed, judges issued their rulings based on documents presented to them,” said Khalid Al Hosani, chief justice for Dubai Court of Personal Status.
“But now it's different because all details surrounding the social, financial and family circumstances of both parents are checked through field visits done by committee members.”
A recent case saw a father request custody of his son because his ex-wife had remarried.
The committee was drafted in to prepare a report on both parents.
“After making assessments and conducting visits, it was discovered the father, although a good man with no criminal record, was very overwhelmed by his [new] marriages, his other children and his job,” Mr Al Hosani said.
The report on the mother said she was doing a good job of raising their son.
“She was taking very good care of the child and following up on his studies and helping him excel in school,” said Mr Al Hosani.
With help from the committee, it was decided the child would not receive the same upbringing his mother was providing if he lived with his father. As such, custody was awarded to the mother.
“This reflects the important role of the committee in helping judges make decisions with complete confidence that the child will be in safe hands,” Mr Al Hosani said.
Members of the committee are two Dubai Courts employees and two from the Community Development Authority in the emirate, one of whom must be from the child protection unit.
Two other members are from the Dubai Police children’s protection section.
As part of their duties they prepare a detailed report covering the social, mental, criminal and health status of the person requesting custody.
“Their responsibilities include making on-site visits to ensure the custodian or the guardian is fit to take care of the child,” Mr Al Hosani said.
In another case, the committee helped reverse an initial Dubai Court ruling denying a mother custody of her daughter, 9.
“The mother was the custodian but the court’s initial ruling ordered that the father become the child’s legal guardian,” said Mr Al Hosani.
The father filed his case and won after proving his ex-wife was a convicted thief.
“The father argued it was not safe to leave the child in the mother’s care because she was convicted of stealing cash and gold from him.”
He demanded his wife be denied custody and pay all the legal fees.
He also asked that she hand over the child's personal documents including her passport and birth certificate.
When the verdict was appealed, the case was referred to the committee, who visited both parents.
Further investigation revealed the father had not seen his daughter for over a year and lived in a one-bedroom apartment with his sister.
Based on these findings, the ruling was overturned and custody awarded to the mother.