British expat divorce in Qatar
Muslim and non-Muslim expats are able to divorce through the Qatari courts, however the applicable laws may be different. For Muslim expatriates, divorce is governed by the Qatari Family Law 22 of 2006. Non-Muslim expatriates may instead choose to apply the laws of their home country within the Qatari courts. When using foreign laws, the applicable law in relation to divorce and associated financial disputes would be the law of the nationality of the husband at the time of the marriage.
The divorce of expats by consent, applying foreign law, can be a straightforward process taking 4-5 months. Typically an agreement is drafted that sets out the applicable law, the agreed basis for the divorce and the financial settlement agreed between the separating couple. Such an agreement can be negotiated and drafted by lawyers prior to the court application.
For Muslims, or for those non-Muslim couples where foreign laws cannot be applied, Family Law 22 of 2006 are the relevant statutory provisions applied to divorce and family law matters within the Qatari courts.
These laws set out the nature of the ‘revocable’ and ‘irrevocable’ divorce, the grounds for divorce and the financial outcome following divorce. Following a divorce, a wife is entitled to maintenance for herself during the waiting period or ‘Iddat’ (three menstrual cycles) and maintenance for her children if she has custody of them. Compensation payments may also be available to the wife if a divorce has taken place without her agreement.
Assets are divided so that each party shall retain the assets held in their own names. Any jointly owned assets will be shared depending on the contributions made towards them. The Qatari court has no jurisdiction to make orders against foreign assets such as bank accounts, property or pensions.
British expatriates living in Qatar with their children should note that unless their divorce is being conducted through the English courts and both parents agree to the English courts resolving issues concerning their children, the Qatari courts will resolve children issues in the event of a dispute (e.g child custody or child relocation with a parent).
Under Article 166 of Family Law 22 of 206, child custody shall be the duty of both parents when married. Should the parents separate, under Qatari law the mother shall have priority for child custody unless the Judge decides that another arrangement is in the best interests of the child. Generally the mother will have custody of a female child until the age of 15, and a male child until the age of [ ].
To be eligible for child custody, a parent must:
- Have reached puberty or suitable maturity
- Be of sound mind
- Be honest or trustworthy
- Be able to nurture, raise maintain and care for a child in order to meet the child’s best interests
- Be free from contagious or infectious disease
- Be a relation of the child
If the mother is the custodian of the child, she must not re-marry unless the court decides that it is in the child’s best interests for her to do so. If the father is the custodian, he must have a female relative living with him to perform the duties of a custodian.
With thanks to Mathieu Faupin from Al Sulaiti Law Firm for his advice on Qatari family laws. Mr Faupin can be reached on [email protected] and tel +974 44664766 (http://alsulaitilawfirm.com).