UAE: Why divorces are more common during January

An expert reveals that there is a 80% spike in separations during the beginning of the year

by

Waheed Abbas

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Published: Mon 15 Apr 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Tue 16 Apr 2024, 5:27 PM

Divorces in the UAE and the UK usually peak during the early months of the year, rising by as much as 80 per cent in January, when couples decide that they’re not getting along well and want to start a new chapter in their lives.

A legal expert says that the priority is always given to counselling and reaching a settlement and not rushing to reach hasty decisions that result in the separation of couples.


“Divorces are very common in the early months of the year. They peak in January because couples try to make marriages work during the holiday season, then they decided that it was not working and they needed to call it quits. I receive a lot of calls where women and men said they’re not getting any better and were heading for divorce and needed advice,” said Samara Iqbal, solicitor, director, and founder of Aramas International Lawyers.

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In an interview with Khaleej Times, she said couples try counselling and holidays together during Christmas, but the relationship still doesn’t work so they want a fresh start in the year.

80% jump in January

“There is an almost 80 per cent increase in inquiries and divorces during January as compared to November and December when it is usually quiet as people are holidaying and busy with their children. In the UAE, it is quiet in the summers also because everyone is on holiday. Similarly, Ramadan is a relatively quiet month too as couples still want to give time to their relationship,” said Iqbal, who specialises in serving expatriate clients with international family law matters.

Samara Iqbal
Samara Iqbal

Her firm provides expatriates legal advice on issues such as international and local divorce, financial disputes, expatriate marital agreements, prenuptial agreements and others.

She added that the spike in couples separating in the early part of the year is prevalent in both the UK and the UAE.

“Sometimes, couples separate long ago due to not getting along well. January becomes the time when they make big decisions. Sometimes people just call to seek advice at the beginning of the year as they don’t want to separate yet but want to figure out what will happen in case of divorce, as many couples have kids so they can’t take immediate action. We encourage counselling if either of the spouses wants to keep the relationship going. We don’t rush people because everyone has a unique situation,” said Samara Iqbal.

Alimony and high-net-worth divorces

She added that when couples separate in UAE, they agree on certain amounts when it comes to high net-worth divorces.

“The UAE is expensive, considering school fees, healthcare and visa costs for expat couples. Even if the wife is working, we normally suggest that they reach an agreement. For example, the wife will cover the groceries and the husband will continue to be the provider of school fees and additional funds required to spend on the kids. Ideally, a father should agree on an amount with his wife. If the husband refuses to pay or delays to pay, this causes issues because she cannot afford to pay for everything on her own if she doesn’t have income and is relying on her husband. So, we kind of encourage him to pay.”

She added that they try to get a third-party mediator also if they fail to agree.

There are many high net worth divorces in UAE due to many expats having assets in the UAE and their home countries.

Important things to consider before divorce

She stressed that couples should always get advice from the family lawyer who is a specialist from the same region.

“If you’re looking for a divorce, for example in the UAE, the lawyer should know the local law. Secondly, prepare yourself mentally because if your spouse doesn’t agree to something, it will be a big battle. Dealing with litigations is hard. Your life will change because you have been with your spouse and you have children. After divorce, if you’re travelling with your kids abroad, you would need your former wife/husband's permission. People need to be aware of these things.”

UK and Abu Dhabi civil courts

Samara Iqbal promotes Abu Dhabi courts more because they’ve been specifically tailored for both Muslims and non-Muslim expats. They also make things a lot easier irrespective of nationality.

“If a couple wants to get a divorce, they don’t have to provide a lot of reasons. They could just say that they have agreed to split and submit an agreement and the court will approve it, just like in the UK. But if the couple fails to agree, the Abu Dhabi Civil Court is brilliant because it fairly deals with things and looks at every aspect and makes sure that both parties have their fair settlement. The UAE is progressing with the establishment of that court and I would suggest it to people living in the UAE. The UK is brilliant too.”

She added that they always encourage agreements and don’t rush to courts and start filing separation cases, making it more difficult for the couples. “But sometimes couples just don’t want to talk. They have strong animosity against each other and they just don’t want to get involved again.”

Aramas International Lawyers confirmed that British nationals in the UAE can settle their lawsuits in Abu Dhabi Civil Courts under the agreement signed in late 2022.

“Yes, if there is a case in a UK court, it can be settled here in Abu Dhabi. Last year, there was a case where one of the UK judges said to a British woman ‘why are you filing the case here when you can file it in Abu Dhabi. It’s the same thing.’ UK nationals don’t necessarily go to their home country to settle lawsuits. We are also encouraging people to use Abu Dhabi courts because they’re similar. It is a big game changer.”

She praised Abu Dhabi courts for carrying out hearings remotely and making the process easy for all those using it, resulting in more and more people opting for it.

“Courts are very progressive and cater to people’s needs. More and more people are opting for it. Online marriages are for UAE nationals only at the moment but this may change in the future for other nationalities in the UAE who have Emirates ID,” Samara Iqbal said.

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