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France refuses to recognise Dubai divorce ruling that was ‘manifestly discriminatory’

Afsana Lachaux plans to pursue divorce and custody claims in UK

Afsana Lachaux, who in 2014 lost custody of her son to her French ex-husband following a Sharia hearing in Dubai, has succeeded in an appeal before the Paris Court of Appeal against the judgment of the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris which recognised the Dubai order.

The dispute related to the recognition in France of a Dubai ruling that ordered divorce and granted exclusive custody of the couple's child to the father on the basis of grounds applicable under Emirati law. The Dubai ruling was primarily based on the following grounds: that Ms Lachaux breached the duty of a wife to obey her husband, which was found to cause him injury (this claim was supported by various affidavits sworn in by friends of the husband), and that Ms Lachaux attended night clubs with her friends and travelled frequently. The case was highlighted by BBC News.

In the lower Parisian court, the Public Prosecutor had supported the husband's claim for recognition of the Dubai ruling. The lower court ruled in favour of the husband.

The Paris Court of Appeal found that the Dubai ruling was "manifestly discriminatory" insofar as it applied non-reciprocal grounds for divorce imposed by Emirati law on women only. As such, the Dubai ruling was found to be contrary to French public policy, which protects equality between spouses and equality between man and woman.

The Paris Court of Appeal also refused to recognise and enforce the Dubai ruling on the ground that it had dismissed the wife's counter-claim for divorce without examining it.

Her lawyers, Cleary Gottlieb, who acted on a pro bono basis, said that this is not only an extremely important success for Ms Lachaux's defence, as she will now be able to pursue with confidence her divorce and custody claim in the UK, but also a landmark victory for the defence of women's rights and basic concepts of justice and equality.

Nevertheless, following the Dubai ruling Ms Lachaux has not had physical contact with her son for more than three years.