Ex-wife of Dubai ruler wins sole custody of the children

Princess Haya and Sheikh Mohammed at Royal Ascot in 2011
The couple pictured together at Royal Ascot in 2011 – Sheikh Mohammed is a major figure in the horse racing world

The ex-wife of Dubai’s ruler will have sole responsibility for schooling and medical care of their children after the High Court ruled he abused her.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum “consistently displayed coercive and controlling behaviour”, a judge ruled.

The ruling is expected to be the final major decision in the case between Sheikh Mohammed, 72, and his sixth wife Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, 47. She fled the United Arab Emirates in 2019 and now lives in the UK.

In the judgement published on Thursday, judge Sir Andrew McFarlane – the most senior family court judge in England and Wales – limited Sheikh Mohammed’s parental responsibility for his daughter and son, Al Jalila, 14, and Zayed, 10, who the judge ruled could be named, despite their young ages.

After fleeing to the UK nearly three years ago, Princess Haya, daughter of Jordan’s former King Hussein, applied for the children to be made wards of court and asked the High Court to make a series of findings about Sheikh Mohammed.

The sheikh – the multi-billionaire ruler of Dubai, prime minister of the UAE and an influential horse-racing owner – applied for the return of the two children to Dubai but later accepted they would live in England, and recently opted not to pursue direct contact with the two children.

The court heard this means he has no face-to-face contact with the children, but can instead contact them indirectly, such as through telephone calls.

When she fled the UAE for the UK in April 2019, the princess said she was in fear for her life, after discovering Sheikh Mohammed had previously abducted two of his other daughters- Sheikha Latifa and Sheikha Shamsa – and rendered them back to Dubai against their will.

In the judgement, Sir Andrew said Sheikh Mohammed “consistently displayed coercive and controlling behaviour with respect to those members of his family who he regards as behaving contrary to his will”. Sir Andrew said a co-parenting relationship between the estranged couple was “entirely bankrupt”.

“The decision to afford the mother sole responsibility for these important matters is justified by the need to reduce the potential for continuing harm to the children,” he ruled. The judge said he accepted Sheikh Mohammed loved the two children, who loved him back.

Princess Haya
Princess Haya

But he said there was an “absence of any acceptance of responsibility, expression of remorse or understanding of the impact” of his behaviour on his former wife.

Sir Andrew found Sheikh Mohammed’s behaviour towards his ex-wife was domestic abuse “conducted on a scale which is entirely outside the ordinary circumstances of cases heard in the family court in this jurisdiction”.

He added: “Given his immense power and wealth, the potential for the father, and those in Dubai who do his bidding, to act remorselessly against the interests of the mother has been proved during these proceedings.”

The judge said the “sustained” abuse towards Princess Haya likely had “a profound impact upon every aspect of her day-to-day life and her emotional wellbeing”.

In December the High Court awarded Princess Haya, the youngest of Sheikh Mohammed’s six wives, a lump sum settlement of £251.5m to cover the cost of running two multi-million pound properties in London and Surrey, a security budget, holidays, salaries and accommodation for a nurse and a nanny, armoured vehicles for the family, and the cost of maintaining various ponies and pets.

Princess Haya said in a statement after the latest ruling that she and her children “are not pawns to be used for division”. She said: “There are no words, no words at all, to describe the love, respect, admiration, and pride I have for the two bravest souls of all, Jalila and Zayed.”

A spokesperson for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said the ruler maintained his denial of the allegations made against him and wished to make clear that: “He loves his children and cherishes their love for him. He has always cared and provided for them, and always will.”


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