Most Read Contributor in United Arab Emirates, March 2016
Sadly a great number of children are abandoned in the United
Arab Emirates each year. Most likely this is as a result of young
mothers being fearful of the repercussions of bearing a child
outside wedlock. It is a criminal offence in the United Arab
Emirates to have a sexual relationship outside marriage. In
practice without clear evidence of the offence, no criminal
sanctions are implemented. However the birth of a child to
unmarried parents is clear evidence. 6 newborn babies were found
abandoned in the UAE in 2011 alone. The publicity of these
abandoned children has led to the issue of adoption being discussed
frequently in the local press.
The laws of the UAE prohibit adoption within the UAE by
non-Emirati couples. This means that only Emirati citizens holding
UAE passports may adopt abandoned children from the UAE. Expatriate
couples residing in the UAE must look abroad to adopt children,
typically to Ethiopia or Mexico. The adoption process for
expatriates can still be conducted from the United Arab Emirates,
regardless of the nationality of the parents.
Abandoned children that have been born in the UAE obtain can
obtain UAE citizenship and a UAE passport. This is set out at
Article 2(e) of the Federal Law 10 of 1975, which amends the
Federal law 17 of 1972. The law states that a child will be deemed
abandoned in the UAE unless proved otherwise.
Under Sharia law, it is encouraged for parents to care for a
child that is not their biological child, and nurture that child as
if he was their own. However it is prohibited for those parents to
give the child their own surname. The Federal laws of the UAE
(based on Sharia laws) circumvent this issue by allowing the
adoptive parents to nominate the child's first name, whereas
the Court would order the child's surname. In practice the
children being adopted within the UAE are always abandoned,
therefore their true identity at the time of adoption is not known.
It is therefore possible for the Court to nominate the child's
new surname, making it the same as the adoptive father's.
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Custody laws in the United Arab Emirates are mainly transcribed in Federal Law No. 28 of the year 2005 (UAE Personal Affairs Law), and I will refer to these articles in covering the Court's discretion in family law issues.