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Issues related to International divorce

May 02 , 2023 | 4 min

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May 02 , 2023 | 4 min

The case of an international divorce dispute case that gained a lot of attention and was widely discussed by legal professionals is the case of Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, a member of the royal family of Jordan, and her estranged husband Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, ruler of Dubai.

The couple’s high-profile divorce proceedings began in 2019 and have involved multiple legal battles in both the UK and Dubai. Some of the key issues in the case include child custody, with Princess Haya seeking custody of the couple’s two children, as well as allegations of mistreatment and abuse on the part of Sheikh Mohammed.

The case has been complicated by the fact that the couple’s wealth and assets are spread across multiple countries, including the UK, Dubai, and Jordan. There has been a dispute over whether UK courts have jurisdiction over the case, as Sheikh Mohammed argues that the couple’s marriage took place under Sharia law in Dubai and should be subject to UAE law.

Legal professionals have closely followed the case due to its high profile and the complex legal issues involved. It highlights some of the challenges of international divorce disputes, including jurisdictional disputes, cultural differences, and the difficulty of enforcing court orders across borders.

In addition to the issues of child custody and allegations of mistreatment, the case has also involved disputes over financial matters. Princess Haya sought a non-molestation order and a forced marriage protection order in the UK courts, which were granted. She has also sought a substantial financial settlement, including a share of Sheikh Mohammed’s assets in the UK, which are estimated to be worth billions of pounds.

One of the key legal issues in the case has been whether UK courts have jurisdiction over the proceedings. Sheikh Mohammed argued that the couple’s marriage took place under Sharia law in Dubai and should therefore be subject to UAE law. However, the UK High Court ruled in 2019 that it did have jurisdiction over the divorce proceedings, citing Princess Haya’s claim that she had been threatened with abduction and forced return to Dubai if she did not comply with Sheikh Mohammed’s wishes.

The case has also raised questions around the treatment of women in some Middle Eastern countries and the role of cultural differences in international divorce disputes. Princess Haya has been praised by some for her courage in speaking out against alleged abuses by Sheikh Mohammed, while others have criticized her for violating traditional expectations of loyalty to her husband and family.

Overall, the case highlights the complexities and challenges of international divorce disputes, particularly when they involve high-profile individuals and multiple jurisdictions. Legal professionals involved in the case have been closely watching developments and working to navigate the complex legal issues at play.

The controversial divorce proceedings of Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, a member of the royal family of Jordan, and her estranged husband Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, ruler of Dubai have indeed brought the issues related to international divorce proceedings into limelight. The case is an interesting case study not only because of the positions held by the parties involved, but also because of issues related to cultural differences, jurisdiction dispute, and difficulty of order enforcements in foreign jurisdictions.

While the recognition of religious marriages itself is a contested issue in the UK and is only allowed under specified circumstances, however, considering the controversial nature of the divorce proceedings involved, it can be assumed that the validity of the marriage itself was the least of the concerns for UK. Further, considering the involvement of children and assets, the case was bound to become even more complicated.

The only major point of consideration here was whether the parties or either of the parties have sufficient connection to the UK, and considering that Sheikh Mohammad’s assets in UK were estimated to be worth billions of pounds, it meant that regardless of whether the couple’s marriage took place in Dubai or not, it was possible for them to get divorced in the UK, or conduct related proceedings related to divorce. This also meant that the parties were habitual residents in England and Wales, adding to the answer of why UK courts had jurisdiction in the proceedings. It was possible for the UK courts to assist in divorce, division of assets, maintenance payments, and related financial claims.

Further, considering that the princess undertook the non-molestation order and a forced marriage protection order meant that it was possible to question the behavior of the ruler of Dubai towards her and the children, making it one of the many grounds for divorce proceedings. Further, when it comes to child custody, even if the custody aspect is explored through the laws of Dubai, the physical custody of the child could only be given to the biological mother of the child, and the father is limited to having a financial and guardianship custody. In the present situation, the mother had moved to the UK, and hence, according to the law, the children were to stay with the mother only. Further, even if the father tried to abduct and forcefully return the children to Dubai, that would be against the law provided under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, 1980. Even though the UAE is not a party to the Hague Convention, it is still possible to bring a case against abduction and child custody within UK courts considering the jurisdiction’s nexus to this case.

Lastly, when it comes to division of financial assets, considering that the related to divorce proceedings are taking place in the UK, and considerable financial assets exist within the jurisdiction of the UK, the UK Courts have the jurisdiction to rule not just on the assets available in the UK, but also foreign assets. Therefore, it is possible for the UK courts to provide the parties with a financial order, which can then be enforced within the local courts of the specific jurisdictions. Hence, the UK courts can rule for properties available in Dubai and Jordan as well, and after obtaining the financial order from the courts of UK, the parties can go back to the respective jurisdictions of Jordan and Dubai to execute the provided order.

Therefore, this case was a classic example to obtain clarity on the aspects of division of assets, child custody, and divorce proceedings at an international level, and considering the high stakes attached with this case, it was bound to especially take the legalities at the forefront due to the additional media attention attached with the case.

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