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Villa 88 ’s Legally Stylish contributor examines the work-life balance and how the law factors into it

WHEN I SET OUT TO DEFINE “the good wife” over three months ago,I didn’t realize how challenging it would be, due to the connotation of this term with the female head of the household, which inadvertently excludes working women, and as a lawyer trying to identify with the title, it felt like I was stepping into unauthorized territory. However, the term cannot be singularly considered by linguistic definition; being a good wife, according to law, is essentially not a formula to follow, which makes it quite tricky, especially when it arises in the context of a dispute before the court.

All laws have provisions related to the duties and privileges of a wife,even those of the most modern and pro-women countries, describing her as a woman who observes obedience, submission and pleasant behaviour with her husband and his family. But the said laws definition, if any, lacks the model or at least the framework where women can identify with and follow. The law does however demonstrate obedience by services the wife is bound to provide, such as maintaining the house and its belongings, carrying out her custody tasks, like taking care of the children physically and emotionally, and making sure everyone is fed while ensuring affection for her husband.

The chores women are meant to carry out, based on the above, seem to be manageable in the UAE especially when we know that the UAE family court, based on Sharia jurisprudence, allows wives to fulfil their charge of the said duties through a proxy, except when it comes to affection of course. The husband therefore, is required to employ the help his wife needs in taking care of the family, whether she is a working mother or not, provided she is of the class of women who had domestic help before marriage.

Thus, a wife is not essentially judged on the duties performed in the household, whether she was personally involved or not, but by the result, and by how she rewards her husband for his material gifts and expressed love.

Working women consequently are at a serious risk of rendered failures at balancing their work and family, since the test applicable is subjective and will be used regarding every case in a quite different way.Nowadays work for women is an essential part of their lives, yet it is still often a source of criticism. The working woman model is made now more difficult due to the significant social and economic changes over the last few decades, which led to such confusion around the very idea of “roles” rendering it impractical. Also, the unique responsibilities assigned to the wife by law and religion(s) in addition to her work life part, which sometimes is not an option, can be properly understood only in the context of a loving and nurturing marriage not the opposite. Therefore, judging the quality of a wife according to what is set forth legally in the context of obedience would be seriously detrimental to women when they are meant to carry out both roles, and the loving relationship prescribed by the law, does not exist.

The mission of a judge looking into whether a wife has mismanaged the balance between family and work, is to consider evidence submitted in the form of witnesses, reports, statements of accounts, and last,but not least, photos and posts from social media, and the standard is set at whether she is at home when her husband and children are at home. As simple as that may seem, you need to know though that the judges looking into cases where your “good wife” title is disputed, will examine every bit of evidence, so make sure you have it all on record, in terms of time and expenses, to prove the balance you worked hard to maintain.

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