Pro Bono Client Receives Refusal of Recognition and Enforcement of Discriminatory Dubai Ruling Before Paris Court of Appeal

February 1, 2017

Cleary Gottlieb represented pro bono client Afsana Lachaux in her successful defense against her French husband before the Paris Court of Appeal, overturning a first instance judgment of the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris.

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 (inter alia) of discriminatory grounds applicable under Emirati law. The Dubai ruling was primarily based on the following grounds: our client breached the duty of the 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), our client attended night clubs with her friends and our client travelled frequently.

In the lower court, the Public Prosecutor had supported the husband’s claim for recognition of the Dubai ruling. The lower court had ruled against our client.

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 recognize and enforce the Dubai ruling on the ground that it had dismissed the wife’s counter claim for divorce without examining it.

This is not only an extremely important success for Ms. Lachaux’s defense, as she will now be able to confidently pursue her divorce and custody claim in the U.K., but also a landmark victory for the defense of women’s rights and basic concepts of justice and equality.

Ms. Lachaux’s ordeal is not over yet. It remains that she has not had physical contact with her son since the Dubai ruling, for more than three years now.