Middle East family focus

Grant HowellGrant Howell considers how the advantages offered by collaborative practice can particularly benefit Middle Eastern-based families looking for a smooth divorce.

With the Middle Eastern region so much in the news for negative reasons, it’s easy to forget that many British families make their homes in the area to take advantage of the thriving economic climate provided by certain states and countries. For example, according to the BBC there are 55,000 British people living in the UAE alone, mostly in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. There are a further 26,000 in Saudi Arabia. In line with long-term trends around the world, the rate of divorce amongst ex-pats in the Middle East is increasing.

Unfortunately, significant complications can arise for ex-pats based in the Middle East going through divorce even if they wish to do things amicably. On top of the usual complexities involved in cross-border divorces, there may be particular considerations regarding the tax treatment of offshore assets and property held in these states, which require specialist legal attention on divorce. Unless matters are agreed between spouses, litigation in these sorts of circumstances can run up substantial fees.

Other complications can be present concerning arrangements for children based in the Middle East. The parents may find that local law has a bearing on their plans or wishes for the children, and there may be concerns about moving the children back to the UK. All these issues can directly impact upon the family looking to make arrangements for after the divorce.

For these ex-pat couples, there are significant advantages to working with collaborative lawyers to arrive at a mutually agreed solution. The ‘teamwork’ ethos of collaborative law ensures that both adults know the advice being given, and can approach the complicated choices they need to make with a full understanding of the implications of each course of action on themselves, the other spouse, children, and other family members. Questions and differences of approach can be aired and discussed in a constructive environment focused on the future, rather than thrashed out in court adversarially.

The aim of collaborative practice on divorce is for both adults to feel that they own the final result, that they have worked to find a fair future together, and that decisions have been made in a cost-effective and open way. Research shows that collaborative law is best suited to achieve those objectives. The more complex the circumstances, the higher the risks of litigation – both in financial and family terms. This is why for international couples based in the Middle East, collaborative and Creative Divorce is a process worth investigating.

grant.howell@crsblaw.com