UAE visitation laws should give non-custodial parents more freedom, say FNC members

“Parents need to build bonds with their children,” said Afra Al Basti, an FNC member from Dubai and head of the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children. “Sometimes the mother tries to keep the child from the father as a form of punishment. This is where the judge needs to see matters from a family perspective.”

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ABU DHABI // Visiting rights in the UAE are taking a toll on children, Federal National Council members have said.

Three years after The National published a story about the restrictions on visits the issue remains unchanged, with field experts blaming judges for allowing the problem to manifest.

The law guaranteeing non-custodial parents the right to see their children gives judges the right to determine the details – which is where the issue lies.

Parents have complained that they were often constrained by short hours in a staged setting at a social centre or even a police station in some cases. Neither factor allowed for bonding and standards were far lower than those internationally, they said.

Until 2012, S A, an Indian, was allowed to see his daughter for only two hours a week, at the General Women’s Union.

After appealing to a judge after the 2011 story appeared in The National, the judge granted him 10 additional hours of visiting time in a setting the father saw fit. Other parents have not been so lucky.

Lawyer Ahmed Al Zaabi, an FNC member from Sharjah, said judges should allow non-custodial parents who pose no harm to the child to take them out during visits.

He strongly rejected the idea of parents meeting children at police stations, saying it could be harmful psychologically.

Afra Al Basti, a fellow FNC member from Dubai and head of the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children, said such a setting could lead a child to jump to conclusions about his or her parents.

She said visits should not take place at any work setting.

“It should be well away from police and workplaces,” she said. “The child’s imagination can build conclusions if it’s at a police station.”

Ms Al Basti also called for non-custodial parents who posed no harm to be allowed more visits.

“Parents need to build bonds with their children,” she said. “Sometimes the mother tries to keep the child from the father as a form of punishment. This is where the judge needs to see matters from a family perspective.”

Mr Al Zaabi said the limited time was an issue for fathers because custody automatically passed from the mother when boys are 11 and girls are 13.

“The judge decides on where they see the child and for how long,” he said. “This effects three parties – the father, the mother, and the child. What happens here is that in most cases the father is the non-custodial parent and the mother doesn’t want the child to get to know him, as a form of punishment to her ex-husband. This is a big problem in divorce.”

He said short visits often meant children were denied the ability to get to know both sides of their family.

osalem@thenational.ae