UAE Family Matters Q&A: What becomes of property after a marriage is dissolved?

What happens to property owned by the couple after the dissolution of marriage?

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Q: How does the court allocate financial resources and property in the event of dissolution of marriage?

A: The court will not automatically consider the financial position of a separating couple unless an application is made. A financial application can only be made by the receiving party. This means that a husband who divorces his wife in the UAE cannot force the wife to accept the settlement.

Q: What happens to property owned by the couple after the dissolution of marriage?

A: There are no family laws in the UAE that deal with the allocation of property. On divorce, each party retains the assets and property held in their respective names. The division of jointly-owned property is dealt with under general civil laws. One party may apply to the court for an order for sale of a jointly-owned property, or for the other party to buy out their share. If one party is able to show that they made a greater financial contribution towards the property, they may retain a larger share of capital. However, the other party might claim it was a gift. Then, the court shall weight the facts and make a judgment accordingly. UAE courts only have jurisdiction over property owned within the UAE.

Q: Are spouses supposed to pay towards the maintenance of the other after the marriage is dissolved?

A: It is not possible for a husband to make income claims from a wife. A wife may make claims for herself and her children irrespective of her wealth and income.

The wife’s claims are the compensation type, as follows:

1) The first is Nafket Motaa. This is for a year's worth of expenses to cover her "moral damage" that she may suffer as a result of her husband divorcing her against her will. This amount will, in most cases, not exceed 25 per cent of his income for a year.

2) The second is for her to claim compensation from her husband if he in fact did not provide support to her during the last three years of her marriage.

3) Thirdly, is the Nafket Eda. This is the claim that a wife could make from her husband to support her financially during the waiting period. And for a Muslim couple if there was unpaid dowry.

If you have a question for Mr Elhais, email with the subject line ‘Family Matters’.