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Until what age can a divorced mother have custody of her kids?

- MOHAMMAD EBRAHIM AL SHAIBA

■ I am a Muslim woman married to a Muslim man. I had a quarrel with my husband and I want to divorce him. I have a 12-year-old son and a 14-year-old daughter from him. In the event of a divorce, do I have the right, according to Sharia, to demand custody of my children and until what age? Is it possible to claim previous alimony?

Article (156) of UAE personal status law states:

1. The right of a woman to foster a child shall end upon the child reaching the age of 11 years, if male, and 13 years, if female, unless the court deems that extending this age-limit to the age of maturity, for the male, and up to her marriage, for the female, is in his/her best interest.

2. Unless the interest of the fostered child demands otherwise, a woman’s fosterage shall continue in case the child is of unsound mind or is suffering from a disabling illness.

You have the right to demand the custody of the children, leaving the decision to the court based on the interest of the children. The court may decide to extend this age-limit in the interest of the child.

Also, the scope of custody in all cases shall be determined in the interest of the child, even if that contradict­s the interest of the guardian, because the right of the child to care and protection is more important than guardian’s right.

It has been decided in Dubai Courts that “Custody is a mother’s inherent right even without a request from her, and that this right is establishe­d for her from the date of birth of the child and until the date determined for the expiration date of the mother’s custody, in accordance with the provisions of Article 156 of the law when the male child reaches 11 years of age and the female child reaches 13 years, unless the court decides to extend this age for the benefit of the child and until the male child reaches the age of maturity and the female child marries”. (In cassation No 363/2020, Personal Status.)

As for alimony, you have the right to request for it from the date the husband refrained to pay it and for a past period not exceeding three years, as per Article 67.

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