Family Court Process
1. Statement of Claim
The statement of Claim is drafted by the Claimant or the lawyer. The statement of claim has to be in writing and in the Arabic language. The statement of claim should include the names of the parties, the location, and addresses of the parties along with their phone numbers, the legal grounds for the claim and the request and demand of the claimant. The statement of claim is a summary of the facts and leads the way further into the process.
2. Submitting the Claim
The statement of Claim is submitted to the Family Court via an online system. After the claim is received by the Case Management Department at the Family Court, the claim is studied. Following this, the court might ask the claimant for further clarification of the submitted claim which might include clarification of the facts, or the contact details of the parties, or any other information the Court thinks is necessary for the claim to proceed to the next step in the Family Court process.
3. Notification Process
The notification process is, perhaps the most challenging part of the proceedings for the claimant. The notification process is lengthy and time-consuming and can take up 30% to 40% of the time of the entire case. This time can be anywhere up to 4 months.
Upon the filing of the case, the Notifier (Clerk of the Court) shall issue a summons for service of the Court proceedings upon each Respondent listed.
The summons shall be signed by the Court and it must contain the name and address of the Court and the names and addresses of all the parties. It must be directed to the Respondent(s) and includes the date on which the Respondent is asked to appear at Court for the initial hearing.
The Notifier (Clerk of the Court) shall take the summons and attempt to serve the same on the Respondent. However, there are many cases in which the clerk is unable to serve the Respondent, for example, when the provided information regarding the Respondent's place of work or residence is unclear, incorrect or the Respondent was not present at the address when the service was attempted.
In circumstances where the Notifier was unable to give notice to the Respondent, the Judge will adjourn the hearing and make an order to follow the Guidance procedure. This process enables the Claimant or his representative to accompany a clerk to the Respondent's home to attempt to serve him. If this process still does not result in the Respondent being served, the Judge will order an 'Investigation' to take place.
If the Guidance does not help for any reason, such as the address does not exist or it was closed, then the court shall postpone the case for an investigation process. This means that the official letter shall be sent by the court to Immigration and CID to find out information about the opposing party.
At this stage, there are two likely scenarios:
If the Government authorities report back stating that they do not have any information about the Respondent, the matter shall proceed to the Publication Stage (see below). It is rare that the Governmental authorities cannot provide information on an individual.
If the Governmental authorities do provide useful information about the location of the individual, the notification process will be repeated, with or without Guidance.
If the Respondent could not be notified, the Judge will adjourn the hearing to allow a publication to be made in the newspaper. An advertisement will be made in a UAE-based newspaper requesting the Respondent make contact with the Court within a certain period. The publication can be made in Arabic and/or English and the cost of the publication must be borne by the Claimant. If the Respondent does not contact the Court within the time period, the Judge may order that a further advertisement is published in the newspaper.
After both publications, if the Respondent does not attend the next hearing listed, the case will be postponed for judgment.
In some circumstances, the Respondent is correctly served by the Notifier but fails to attend the initial hearing. In such circumstances, the Court decides to notify the Respondent for the second time and in the event that the Respondent fails to appear for the second time the Judgment is made by the Court.
4. Memos Process
Following the notification of the parties, the process of exchanging memos starts. The initial memo is submitted by the Claimant or his lawyer to the court. After this is done, one of two things are likely to happen: Firstly, The Respondent might ask the court for more time to study the Claim or time to appoint a lawyer. Secondly, If the claimant attended the first hearing himself, his lawyer is likely to ask for time to study the file. These requests shall be submitted in writing to the court.
5. Offering Settlement
It is mandated by Law, that during te course of the proceedings, the court must offer the Parties an amicable settlement to the dispute at least once. The court has wide discretion as to when it think it appropriate to do so, however, it is a compulsory step by the court. This offer of an amicable settlement can be offered by the court both at the First Instance stage as well as the Appeals stage.
Keeping the significance and the moral structure of the society and the importance of family therein, the offer of a settlement by the court is the last attempt by the court to reconcile between the parties. The parties are required to be present, in person, at this stage.
If an amicable settlement is reached between the Parties at this stage, an agreement is drafted and placed in front of the judge for his approval. If and when he accepts, the agreement becomes part of the judgment in the case and id documented for all future reference as both parties are bound by the terms and conditions of this agreement.
If no amicable solution is reached, the case resumes and takes its legal course.
Author: Mr. Hassan Elhais, along with his team of legal consultants and prominent local lawyers across the UAE, has made a name for himself as a renowned specialist in the fields of civil law, construction law, banking law, criminal law, family law, inheritance law and arbitration.