How to navigate divorce as an expat in a country governed by Shariah law?

Published: Mon 19 Feb 2024, 9:44 PM

BLURB: Given the nature of divorce cases under Shariah law, specialised legal expertise is invaluable in ensuring a fair and just resolution to your unique situation

By Samara Iqbal

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Navigating a divorce as an expatriate in a country governed by Shariah law poses unique challenges due to differences in legal and cultural contexts. It's essential to comprehend the basic principles of Shariah law applicable in your specific location, as these can vary significantly between countries.

Seeking advice from legal professionals specialising in family law and Shariah is crucial. They can provide accurate information regarding your rights, obligations, and the divorce process in the jurisdiction you find yourself in. Ensuring that all your legal documentation, including marriage certificates and prenuptial agreements, is in order is foundational during divorce proceedings.

We would encourage couples to consider engaging in mediation services, often encouraged in Shariah-based legal systems, to facilitate an amicable settlement with your spouse. This may expedite the divorce process and help in reaching mutually agreeable terms. Mediation allows both parties to express their concerns and preferences, potentially leading to a more satisfactory outcome.

Another challenge between couples is protecting your financial interests. Shariah law often prescribes specific rules for the division of financial assets. Understanding these rules and consulting with legal professionals will help ensure that your financial interests are protected and that any division of assets is fair and equitable.

Child custody is another critical aspect, and Shariah law typically provides guidelines for determining custody arrangements. Be prepared for discussions and negotiations regarding the welfare and custody of any children involved. Understanding the local regulations and being open to finding solutions that prioritize the best interests of the children can contribute to a smoother process.

Approaching the divorce process with cultural sensitivity is essential. Be mindful of local customs, traditions, and societal expectations. Showing respect for the cultural context can positively influence the proceedings and may lead to a more cooperative and amicable resolution. Cultural sensitivity is particularly crucial in divorce cases governed by Shariah law, as the legal system is intertwined with religious and cultural norms.

Be aware of your rights as a spouse under Shariah law. This knowledge will empower you to make informed decisions during the divorce process, ensuring you protect your interests and adhere to the legal framework. Legal professionals with expertise in Shariah family law can provide guidance on your rights and obligations throughout the divorce process.

Emotional support is crucial during divorce proceedings. Reach out to friends, family, or professionals who can offer guidance and understanding. The emotional toll of a divorce can be significant and having a support system in place can help you navigate the challenges more effectively.

If you are not fluent in the local language, consider hiring a translator or seeking legal professionals who can communicate with you effectively. Language barriers can complicate legal matters, and ensuring clear communication is essential for understanding the intricacies of the divorce process.

Samara Iqbal
Samara Iqbal

We have seen that in countries such as the UAE and Qatar, the court system allows expatriates (non-Muslims) to also use home country laws instead of Shariah law and it’s crucial that anyone that is navigating a divorce, who wishes to elect non-Shariah law also obtain expert advice on this when beginning their divorce journey to see if the Shariah country they reside in allows this.

Lastly, keep in mind that divorce laws can be complex and may vary even within a country. Consulting with a qualified legal professional experienced in Sharia family law is crucial to navigating the process correctly and protecting your interests. Given the nature of divorce cases under Shariah law, specialised legal expertise is invaluable in ensuring a fair and just resolution to your unique situation.

(Samara Iqbal, Solicitor, Director and Founder of Aramas International Lawyers)

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