GENERAL INFORMATION: Qatar is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, nor are there any international or bilateral treaties in force between Qatar and the United States addressing international parental child abduction. American citizens who travel to Qatar place themselves under the jurisdiction of local courts, as well as the country's laws and regulations. American citizens planning a trip to Qatar with dual- national children should bear this in mind.
CUSTODY DISPUTES: When child custody disputes arise between parents of any religion, the custody decisions by Qatari courts are based on Islamic (Shari'a) law. Custody cases can be very complex and are usually determined on a case-by-case basis. When making decisions regarding child custody matters, Qatari courts consider the parents' religion(s), place(s) of permanent residence, income, and marital status.
Qatari law differentiates between custodianship and guardianship. Generally speaking, a custodian is awarded physical custody of the child and is responsible for his/her upbringing including education and daily care. A guardian is responsible for the child's financial support and can be held responsible for ensuring a sound upbringing, such as proper religious foundation. In many cases, the guardian (frequently male) must grant permission for children to depart Qatar.
Qatari courts do not, as a general rule, award custody of "dual national" (U.S./Qatari) children to an American mother or father, even one who is Muslim. A fundamental consideration in awarding custody is a parent's place of permanent residence and degree of access to the children. Custody of very young children is generally granted to the mother, as long as certain restrictive conditions are met. Once the children come of age (for males, completion of their seventh year of age, for females, the onset of puberty), the father can appeal for, and will usually be awarded, full custody, provided certain restrictive conditions are met. If a father is unable or unfit to be custodian of his children, the court may give custody to another family member. Shari'a court judges have broad discretion in custody cases and often make exceptions to these general guidelines, particularly in cases in which a parent is from an influential family or has powerful connections in Qatar.
Even when a mother is granted custody, the non-custodial father maintains a great deal of influence on the rearing of the children. In many cases, the father has been able to acquire legal custody of children against the wishes of the mother when she is unable or unwilling to meet certain conditions set by law for her to maintain her custodial rights. For example, if a mother refuses to give the father access to his child or attempts to leave Qatar with the children without the court's permission, a mother's custody rights can be severed. The Qatari court can sever a mother's custody if it determines that the mother is incapable of safeguarding the child or of bringing the child up in accordance with the appropriate religious standards. Either parent can lose custody by re-marrying a party considered "unmarriageable," or by residing in a home with people that might be "strangers." However, the final decision is left to the discretion of the Shari'a court.
Persons who wish to pursue a child custody claim in a Qatari court should retain an attorney in Qatar. The State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Qatar maintain a list of attorneys willing to represent American clients. A copy of this list may be obtained by contacting either office. It is the responsibility of the prospective client to assess the capabilities of an attorney. The Embassy cannot recommend any specific attorney, and makes no claim as to the ability or the integrity of the attorneys on the list. The Embassy cannot pay for any legal expenses incurred.
U.S. Embassy Doha
P.O. Box 2399
Telephone:  488-4101 x6500
Fax:  488-4176
Internet web site: http://www.usembassy.org.qa
(The workweek for the Embassy is Sunday through Thursday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)
Questions involving Qatari law should be addressed to a Qatari attorney or to the Embassy of Qatar at:
Embassy of the State of Qatar
4200 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20016
Telephone: (202) 274-1600
ENFORCEMENT OF FOREIGN JUDGMENTS: Custody orders and judgments of foreign courts are not enforceable in Qatar if they potentially contradict or violate local laws and practices. For example, an order from a U.S. court granting custody to an American mother will not be honored in Qatar if the mother intends to take the child to live outside Qatar. Courts in Qatar will not enforce U.S. court decrees ordering a parent in Qatar to pay child support.
VISITATION RIGHTS: In cases where the father has custody of a child, visitation by the mother is entirely at the discretion of the father. Upon a non-Qatari parent's departure from Qatar, the Qatari parent (either the mother or father) may request an immigration stop against the other parent, thereby preventing future entry into Qatar even with a valid visa.
PASSPORT APPLICATIONS FOR MINORS: A person applying for a U.S. passport for a child under 16 must demonstrate that both parents or legal guardians consent to the issuance of a passport to the child or that the applying parent has sole authority to obtain the passport. This law covers passport applications made at domestic U.S. passport agencies in the United States and at U.S. consular offices abroad. Exceptions to this requirement may be made in special family circumstances or exigent circumstance necessitating the immediate travel of the child. The purpose of the new requirement that both parents' consent be demonstrated is to lessen the possibility that a U.S. passport might be used in the course of an international parental child abduction.
CHILDREN'S PASSPORT ISSUANCE ALERT PROGRAM: Separate from the two-parent signature requirement for U.S. passport issuance, parents may also request that their children's names be entered in the U.S. passport name-check system, also know as Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP). A parent or legal guardian can be notified by the Department of State before a passport is issued to his/her minor child.