In UAE, court’s interpretation of family law provisions is widely based on Sharia, which the UAE mandates is used as the primary legal justification on matters involving family law. Sustenance, Alimony or Maintenance in Islam is known as Nafaqah which is a legal term for the financial support a husband must provide for his wife or wives. In UAE, Spousal Maintenance includes food, clothing, dwelling, medical care, servicing charges for the wife, if she is performing such services within her family, and all what the conjugal relationship kindly requires (Article 63 Personal Status Law). Furthermore, it is important to note that the Wife is NOT responsible for feed her husband. Any money the wife owes is hers to do with as she wishes.
In UAE, Spousal Maintenance is a matter of right in the following circumstances:
- The wife shall deserve sustenance from her husband under the valid contract if she yields herself to him even if by a judgment (Article 66).
- Maintenance to the wife is due as of the date of refrainment from payment when due as a debt on the husband, independently of a court judgment or agreement. It is not forfeited except by payment or discharge (Article 67).
- The spousal maintenance is mandatory upon husband for the wife observing a revocable divorce idea and the pregnant wife observing an irrevocable divorce idea shall deserve alimony and a residence, whereas the woman observing an irrevocable divorce idea without being pregnant shall deserve a residence only and not alimony. (Article 69).
On marital breakdown, when the marriage is not dissolved and the case is pending before the court the spousal maintenance (Nafaqa) is decided on a temporary basis during the time the divorce is not final and the case is pending before the courts.
There is no spousal support on separation under Sharia and UAE law. The Personal Status Law provides that the wife will be provided support by her divorce for three months following the divorce (Idea months). It is pertinent to mention that there are circumstances when the wife is not entitled to the maintenance even during the subsistence of marriage:
- No Spousal Maintenance is due to the widow during her waiting period because of the death of her husband but she is entitled to live in the conjugal domicile during the said period (Article 70)
- Should she refuse to give herself to her husband or refuse to reintegrate the conjugal domicile without lawful excuse (Article 71)
- Should she abandon the conjugal domicile without lawful excuse(Article 71)
- If she forbids her husband to enter the conjugal domicile without a lawful excuse (Article 71)
- The obligation of alimony to the wife is terminated upon the occurrence of any of the following events: 1) Payment. 2) Discharge.3) The death of one of the spouses unless it has been ordered by court decision (Article 73)
- If a judgment or decision is rendered by the court, restraining her freedom, in a matter to which the husband is not entitled, and the said judgment or decision is in the process of execution (Article 71)
In UAE, if the Spousal Maintenance is unpaid, a petition for maintenance against husband is filed in courts of competent jurisdiction with a prayer to direct the husband for payment of maintenance costs. The petition may be given a retrospective effect wherein the wife may also ask for payment of maintenance amounts for the past three years, as well. In the UAE, the petition may be filed in accordance with Article 9 Clause 2 of the Federal Law No 28 of 2005 on the Issuance of Personal Status Laws.
In assessing the amount of spousal sustenance in UAE, the pecuniary ability of husband, the circumstances of the beneficiary and the economic situation in terms of place and time are taken into consideration. Provided that maintenance does not fall below the sufficiency level (Article 63). Alimony may be increased or reduced according to the change of circumstances. Change in alimony shall only be judicially redressed after the lapse of one year which is calculated from the date of judicial claim (Article 64)