Disclaimer: Any information contained in these pages relating to the legal system in Bahrain is provided for general information only. Independent legal advice should be sought in Bahrain for specific information relating to individual cases. A list of English-speaking lawyers in Bahrain is available on the website of the British Embassy in Manama.
The abduction of a child from the UK to Bahrain is NOT a crime in Bahrain unless there is a Bahrain court order regarding custody of the child or travel restrictions. Parental child abduction is, however, a criminal offence in Bahrain if a parent or grandparent removes a child from the person who is entitled to custody.
Bahrain has not signed the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Hague Convention seeks to return children abducted or retained overseas by a parent to their country of habitual residence, for the courts of that country to decide on matters of residence and contact.
There is no agreed international system in place to return children from Bahrain to the UK. Therefore, parental child abduction cases from the UK to Bahrain are often difficult to resolve. Neither the British government nor the British Embassy can force the abducting parent or the Bahraini government to return a child to the UK.
There is no extradition treaty in force between the UK and Bahrain.
Sharia courts have jurisdiction over custody cases involving parents who are Muslim. There are separate courts for Shia and Sunni Muslims. Under Sharia law the father is considered to be the guardian of his children. For Shia Muslims the mother has the right to custody of male children until the age of seven and female children until the age of nine. For Sunni Muslims, the ages vary. However, if the court rules that the child may be in danger in the mother’s care then custody will be given to the father, or to the child’s paternal grandmother. Women who remarry may lose custody of their children, under the tenets of Sharia law.
Appeals on the outcome of custody cases are possible and usually take approximately four months. In cases where both parents are non-Muslims then civil law will apply. If the father is Muslim, the children will be considered Muslims, even if the mother is of another religion. A non-Muslim mother may find it more difficult to obtain custody in Bahrain. The parent who does not have custody is entitled to contact with the child if they have a court order.
A foreign custody order issued from a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) country may be enforced in a Bahraini Court. However, if the court order was issued outside a GCC country e.g. the UK then the foreign custody order will only be used as evidence in the local court. Custody orders and judgements of foreign courts are not enforceable in Bahrain if they contravene its domestic laws.
N.B. This section constitutes general information on the Bahraini system. For detailed information and advice on how the law may apply to the circumstances of individual cases, independent legal advice should be sought in Bahrain.
A wife does not need her husband’s permission to leave the country and neither does a child need his paternal authority to leave the country. In cases where parents are divorced or separated, then the parent who has custody will need the permission of the other parent to remove the child from Bahrain and a special application has to be made to the courts. This rule also applies to holidays. It is possible, for either parent to apply via the Bahraini courts to have a travel ban put on the child leaving the country i.e. if there is an ongoing custody dispute or if they fear that the other parent intends to abduct the child overseas. If there is a travel ban in place, a parent will be stopped at the airport and prevented from leaving the country with the child. Dual nationality is recognised in Bahrain.
Mediation is an option when parents are not able to reach an amicable agreement between themselves about their children’s futures, but do not wish to take court action. A neutral party, or mediator, can assist in enabling parents to form a mutually acceptable decision on custody and contact with their children.
The British embassy in Manama annually helps raise money for the Bahrain Children and Mothers Welfare society (CMW), a local charitable organisation that provides services to families in need (N.B. not suitable for mono-British nationals as they can only provide services to Bahraini nationals). For more information about CMW, call 00 (973) 1768 9909.
Reunite is the leading UK charity specialising in international parental child abduction. The services range from offering practical impartial advice and mediation to providing a helpful support network aimed at those who have had their child abducted. For more information about Reunite and their services, visit Reunite’s website or call 0116 3555 345.