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Abu Dhabi drafted a new legislation for non-Muslims regarding Marriage, Divorce, Custody, and Inheritance

On November 7, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, enacted legislation to regulate non-Muslims’ status in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The new family law results from a series of changes made in Abu Dhabi to modernize and restructure the legal system while also protecting the rights of non-Muslims and guaranteeing that their legal problems are not subject to Sharia law.

The legislation was extensively researched and analyzed to provide a legislative solution that provides a current judicial framework for foreigners resident in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi to resolve family conflicts following worldwide best practices.

Aim of the Legislation

  1. The goal is to provide a flexible and effective judicial procedure for non-Muslims to resolve personal status problems.
  2. The move would strengthen the Emirate’s position as one of the most attractive places for talent and skills and its worldwide competitiveness.
  3. The legislation also aims to strengthen Abu Dhabi’s leadership by being the first civil law in the world to handle non-Muslim family affairs following international best practices. It offers non-Muslims the right to be bound by an internationally recognized law that is recognizable to them in terms of culture, customs, and language, as well as the ability to attain and safeguard the best interests of children, especially in the case of parental separation.
  4. The new family law is intended to provide “a flexible and advanced judicial framework for resolving personal status problems for non-Muslims.”

 Applicability of New Family Law

The law was created to give non-Muslims a flexible and advanced judicial framework for resolving personal status disputes. The AD Judicial Department has created the first court for non-Muslim family cases. The new court’s proceedings will be multilingual, i.e. in Arabic and English, to assist foreigners’ comprehension of judicial operations and to promote judicial transparency.

You need to know: Family Protection Laws and Regulations in the UAE

Composition of New Family Law

The new legislation comprises 20 articles grouped into chapters that address civil marriage, divorce, joint custody of children, and inheritance. 

  • The First chapter of the legislation governs foreigner marriage proceedings in court by establishing the notion of civil marriage, which is based on both the husband and wife’s will.
  • The Second chapter discusses non-Muslim divorce procedures, spouses’ post-divorce rights, and the judge’s discretion in determining the wife’s financial right. It is based on various factors, including the number of years of marriage, the wife’s age, each spouse’s financial situation, and other factors that the judge considers when determining the wife’s financial rights.
  • The third chapter offers a new notion in post-divorce child custody: sharing custody equally between the father and mother, or joint or shared custody in certain Western nations, to preserve the family’s cohesion after divorce and the children’s psychological health.
  • The fourth chapter discusses inheritance difficulties, non-Muslim will registration, and a foreigner’s right to write a will transferring all of their assets to whoever they choose.
  • The fifth chapter of the legislation governs proof of paternity for non-Muslim foreigners, stating that evidence of paternity of a newborn child is based on marriage or acknowledgement of fatherhood.

You may want to know: How to Get Child Custody – Child Custody Advice

Some New Features introduced in newly enacted Family Law for Non- Muslims in Abu Dhabi

  1. Right to divorce 

    Under the new rule, couples have the right to divorce without establishing that the marriage caused them harm.

  2. Concept of Joint and Equal Custody of Children

    After a divorce, parents will be allowed joint and equal custody of their children, with processes in place to resolve disagreements.

  3. If a person dies intestate( without making Will)

    Changes to non-Muslim inheritance rules in Abu Dhabi imply that if a person dies without a will, half of their fortune will automatically go to their spouse, with the other half going to their children.

  4. Specialized Court for Non- Muslims

    A specialized court for non-Muslim family problems has also been established.

  5. Court Proceedings to be conducted in Arabic and English

    All court proceedings will be conducted in Arabic and English to ensure that foreigners understand the court’s operations and increase judicial transparency.

 Are you an expat and looking for a divorce in the UAE? – Must read this

The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the subject. This article was produced with great care to ensure correctness. Because individual circumstances may vary, it is not meant to give legal advice or predict a specific conclusion. Readers considering legal action should seek legal advice from an experienced attorney like HHS Lawyers in Dubai to learn about current laws and how they may apply to their case.

Don’t hesitate to contact us if you require any legal assistance on the subject presented or related issues. contact us.



M. Al Khatem

Trademark & Intellectual Property

M. Al Khatem is a senior Trademark and Intellectual Property (IP) expert in HHS Lawyers. He has handled some of the firm’s complex, high-profile cases – many involving the protection of trademark and IP rights.