Churches given authority to mediate personal and family court matters
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The process will lead to family and personal court matters being dealt with outside the sharia-based system.

The Abu Dhabi justice system has signed an agreement with Christian clergy that paves the way for churches to approve marriages, mediate divorces and soon handle child custody.

In what was described as an unprecedented move, the process will lead to family and personal court matters being dealt with outside the sharia-based system, should those involved want it so.

Ministers and priests will work closely with Abu Dhabi Judicial Department with the intention of handling such cases from next year. Church officials on Thursday said it is also intended that wills could be made out with the involvement of the church, rather than the courts.

As The National first reported in the summer, the change in the law is part of a broader legal review by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs.

The intention is to ensure non-Muslims have the option to use a system that is not based on the sharia system, and the unexpected complications that can bring to those unfamiliar with the process.

Bishoy Fakhri, pastor of St Anthony Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Abu Dhabi, said that “giving the church the authority to be part of the entire justice system is an exemplary and unique experience”.

Rev Fakhri and Rev Joseph Faragalla, head of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Evangelical Church, signed the agreement with the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department on Thursday. Rev Faragella signed on behalf of all Evangelical churches in the capital.

“According to the agreement, we the Church will be working on two main areas concerning family matters; we will assist couples with disputes and offer mediation sessions.”


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