Family Law in the GCC and the Best Interests of the Child: The Multiple Meanings of a Vague Legal Concept
Hawwa – Journal of Women of the Middle East and the Islamic World, Vol. 16, No. 3, pp. 309-332, 2018
21 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2019 Last revised: 1 Apr 2019
This article considers the inclusion of the best interests of the child standard in the family law regimes of Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as its implications for our understanding of families in the Persian Gulf region. Specifically, the degree and ends to which the concept of the best interests of the child have been used in formulating the rules governing domestic child law generally, and parental care in particular, will be investigated. As the best interests of the child standard remains a vague and largely undefined legal concept in all three family codes, the analysis will not limit its focus on statutory approaches to reforming child law. More importantly, this article also considers legal practice in child law and the courts’ interpretation of the best interests of the child standard. In doing so, the article: (i.) discusses how the introduction of the best interests of the child standard has served to reform family law on its codification in Bahrain, Qatar, and the UAE; and (ii.) explores what the interpretation of the concept of best interests of the child tells us about changing societal values, family structures, and present-day attitudes towards motherhood and fatherhood in the GCC. I argue that, although the best interests of the child standard has come to influence most aspects of child law in the three countries under review, its usage and meaning remains inconsistent. The concept serves multiple purposes in the area of parental care in particular. What is still missing in all three jurisdictions is a thoroughly grounded and all-encompassing framework to determine the best interests of the child standard and also an understanding of its overall function within family law.
Note: This pre-print is published in the Max Planck Private Law Research Paper Series with the permission of the rights owner, Brill, in accordance with its self-archiving-rights policy.
Keywords: GCC states, family law, best interests of the child, parental care, custody (ḥaḍāna), guardianship (wilāya), judicial practice
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