Alternative methods of dispute resolution
Before filing a case, whether it is a civil, labour or personal status, the UAE's court system facilitates alternative methods of dispute resolution through committees, which include:
- commercial disputes resolution committees
- family guidance committees
- mediation and conciliation centres
- labour dispute resolution committees.
These committees aim to solve disputes amicably and reduce the burden of judicial fees. If an amicable settlement is not possible, the litigating party can apply for a 'No objection' letter from the relevant mediation committee/centre and submit a statement of claim to the relevant court. Then, the case is filed to be seen by the judge in the respective Court of First Instance.
Filing a lawsuit
Filing lawsuits requires the plaintiff or his/her representative to submit a 'statement of claim' and supporting documents to the Case Management Office in the court or by creating electronic records for such lawsuits. Each defendant is entitled to receive a copy of the plaintiff’s claim.
The statement of claim mainly include:
- the plaintiff's and the defendant's personal details and addresses
- the subject-matter of the lawsuit
- the requests and grounds
- the date of submission of the lawsuit to the Case Management Office
- the court before which the lawsuit is filed
- the signature of the plaintiff or his representative.
If the case is related to nullification, revocation or validation of a contract, a copy of the contract is required.
For the implementation of judgements issued abroad, the UAE's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation should attest the original judgement.
Documents presented to the UAE's courts must be in Arabic; otherwise, it should be translated into Arabic by a legal translator approved by the UAE's Ministry of Justice.
The plaintiff should sign the lawsuit if it is to be submitted by the attorney. After submitting the documents, the plaintiff or the attorney will be asked to pay the court fee based on the type of the case.
After that, the court will give the case a number and a date for the hearing. The clerk, through the court official (the bailiff), will serve a notification on the defendant within 10 days from the date the statement was filed.
The litigant should make sure that the court has the jurisdiction to hear the case according to the provisions of the UAE Civil Procedures law, section 3.
Determining a court's jurisdiction
In general, a court's jurisdiction lies in the defendant's domicile. If he has no domicile, then the jurisdiction would be the area of his residence or work.
In commercial cases, the plaintiff can choose the court to which he can bring a claim to. He can bring it to either:
- the court in the area where the defendant resides
- the court in the area where the agreement was made, or executed wholly or partially
- the court in the area where the contract should have been performed.
For other types of situations, Federal Law No.11 of 1992 Concerning the Civil Procedural Law, as amended determines the jurisdiction of the courts.
Appointment of attorneys/lawyers
Ministry of Justice provides an online service to search for a lawyer in the UAE to help people find a suitable lawyer.
Only UAE national lawyers with a valid licence are allowed to appear before the UAE courts. The lawyers should be licensed by the UAE's Ministry of Justice and must be registered in the roll of practising lawyers.
The court accepts the authorisation of attorneys in accordance with the provisions of the law. The representative must prove his appointment through an official power of attorney attested by a notary public.
The appointment gives the attorney the power to perform all necessary actions and procedures to file a lawsuit, follow-up on its proceedings, defend and take precautionary measures until a decision on its merits is rendered.
A Guide to Practising legal Profession - (PDF, 438 KB, available in Arabic) - Ministry of Justice.
Estimating case value
The value of the case is estimated on the day of trial. The valuation should be based on the last request made by the parties in the lawsuit and shall include indemnities, revenues and expenditure etc. due on the day of trial. You can calculate court fees on the website of Ministry of Justice.
Responding to a civil action
The defendant should submit a defence memorandum (a plea) to the Case Management Office and copies of his documents bearing his signature at least three days before the date of hearing.
The time limit for appearing before the court is normally 10 days, which may be reduced if necessary, to 3 days.
The time limit for the appearance in urgent actions is 24 hours, which may be reduced to an hour if necessary, provided that the litigant party is notified about it.
Appearing before court
On the day scheduled for hearing the case, the parties or their attorneys are required to appear before the court. The hearing will be held in the first session and if the plaintiff or the defendant submits a document in this session which he could have submitted while filing the case, the court may accept it if it would not result in the adjournment of proceedings.
If the submission results in an adjournment, the court on its own motion or at the request of the litigating parties, may decide to impose a fine. If the plaintiff or the defendant fails to attend the hearing, the court shall decide if it is a valid one or decide its removal. If no party requests to proceed with the case or attends the sitting after 60 days passed, the case will be cancelled.
If the defendant alone, after receiving the notification, fails to attend the hearing, the court will decide in the lawsuit unless he was not served with the notification, wherein the court, in non-summary proceedings, may adjourn the hearing to the following session.
The court may not postpone a lawsuit more than once for the same reason cited by one party except for a valid excuse, if the adjournment period shall not be for more than two weeks.
If the court finds that it lacks jurisdiction to hear the case, it should order the case referral to the competent court and the court clerk should notify the parties about the decision.
Ending a civil action
A civil action may be ended if both parties agree not to proceed with the case and get approval for this from the court. Such cessation could be for a period of six months from the date of the court's approval as per Article 101 of Civil Procedural Law.
No party shall be allowed to expedite the case during this period, except with the consent of the other.
Pronouncing a judgement
The judgement is pronounced publicly by the judge or the head of the circuit according to the circumstances.
The court, in issuing its verdict, shall automatically decide on the expenses of the lawsuit as well.
The expenses of the lawsuit should be borne by the party against whom the judgement was passed and they shall include the advocacy fee.
If several persons were convicted, the court may decide to divide the expenses equally or on a pro-rata basis, in accordance with its estimation.
Petition for review of a judgement
The litigants may seek a review of the final judgement if:
- the opponent's fraud influenced the court's ruling
- the court's decision was based on papers which were confirmed to be falsified after the issuance of the ruling
- the ruling was based on the testimony of a witness who was later adjudged false.
Appealing a judgement
The judgements of Court of First Instance may be contested before the Court of Appeal within 30 days of the date of judgement; however, for urgent type of cases, they must be appealed against within 10 days.
The grounds of the appeal can be based on factual or legal grounds or both.
Litigants may also introduce additional evidence to the Court of Appeal or request additional witnesses for the case.
Execution of judgement
The judgement is executed under the supervision of the execution judge at the Court of First Instance, assisted by execution representatives.
Updated on 03 May 2023