The Undertaking a Case Through the Family Court in UAE

The family court process is one that has several layers and is ultimately geared towards resolving family disputes in a way that keeps families united or minimises court appearances. Below are the steps involved in the process:

1. Statement of Claim

This written claim, which must be drafted in Arabic, is a basic summary of facts which outlines the dispute. It must include details such as the legal grounds for the claim, the names of the parties to the dispute, their locations, addresses and phone numbers and the ultimate request by the claimant.

2. Claim Submission

This is now done through an onlinesystem. Once a claim is received by the family court’s Case Management Department, it is evaluated and any request for further information or clarification will be delivered to the claimant before the case can proceed.

3. Notification Process

This is the most arduous process in the family court system and may take up to four months to be conducted. Once a case has been filed, a court clerk (the ‘notifier’) issues a court summons to each of the parties or respondents listed in the claim outlining a date and time the respondent must appear in court for an initial hearing. In many cases the clerk has difficulties in serving the respondent with the summons, for example if there were problems with the listed address or if the respondent was not present at the address when the clerk visited.

In the event this occurs, the judge will adjourn the stipulated hearing and make an order for a ‘guidance procedure’ which requests the claimant to accompany a clerk or court representative to the listed address for the respondent to enable the summons to be served. If this still does not work, the judge will then order an investigation into the respondent’s circumstances, which entails an official letter being sent to the Department of Immigration and Criminal Investigation Department to garner more information on the respondent’s whereabouts.

This step usually presents results. However, in the event this still does not work, the original notification procedure takes place. If the respondent remains unable to be found, an advertisement is taken out in a UAE newspaper requesting the respondent to make contact with the court within a certain timeframe; the burden of these costs falls to the claimant. If this does not produce the respondent, another notice will be taken out in a newspaper but failing that the case will be postponed for judgment by the court. The same judgment will take place if a respondent who has been served fails to appear in court twice.

4. Memo Process

Once all parties are aware of the court date following notification of the parties, the process of exchanging memos begins. The initial memo is on behalf of the claimant to the court. After this has occurred, the claimant’s lawyer or the respondent may ask for time to study the file via a request submitted in writing to the court.

5. Dispute settlement process

Due to the strong societal desire to keep families united, there is a stipulation that the court must offer parties the opportunity to settle their dispute amicably at least once during proceedings. This is the last opportunity for a reconciliation between the parties and must take place when both are present.

The court has wide discretion about when the appropriate time to propose a settlement is made, but it must be made at least once during proceedings. If a settlement is reached, an agreement will be drafted and given to the judge for consideration. If the judge accepts this agreement, he will make this agreement part of the legal judgment. If the judge does not accept the settlement or no solution is reached, the case will continue and the judge will be the sole arbiter of the judgment.