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The New UAE Non-Muslim Family Law: What you need to Know?

The new Federal Personal Status Law (Federal Law No. 41 of 2022) (from now on “UAE Non- Muslim Family Law”) has come into effect on February 1, 2023. It regulates essential family issues like marriage, child custody, divorce, and Inheritance. According to leading legal experts, the new Civil marriage Law in the UAE aims to advance gender equality, address the issue of joint custody, and speed up the divorce process for non-Muslim expatriates in the UAE.

For non-Muslim residents and expatriates throughout the world, the UAE government has made it easier to satisfy their expectations about their personal life. They won’t be subject to regulations that clash with their values and way of life without having an impact on UAE culture and beliefs that will be applicable to both native Muslims and foreign Muslims.

Why did UAE Non- Muslim Family Law consider to be necessary?

The Civil Family Court System in Abu Dhabi, which works similarly to wedding registry offices in the UK and Europe or even by following the laws of their home country, has been the source of the new reforms to the legal systems in the UAE. This system permits non-Muslim couples to get married or divorced without adhering to Sharia law. Although Abu Dhabi began implementing this policy in November 2021, all seven emirates—Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Fujairah, and Ras Al Khaimah—will now be covered by the personal status rules.

What was the scenario before the UAE Non- Muslim Family Law?

Previously, expats or non-Muslim residents of the UAE were required to observe Sharia law when applying for divorce in a local UAE court, even if it was different from the law of their home country. As a result, more individuals turned to get married or divorced outside of the UAE. The UAE Non- Muslim Family Law was passed to “control marriage, circumstances, and processes of contracting and recording the marriage before the competent courts,” making it permissible for non-Muslims to get married or divorce under non-sharia law.

You may want to know: Getting Married in Dubai: What are Legal Requirements for Expatriates

Applicability of New UAE Non- Muslim Family Law

  • Expats who live in the UAE and are not Muslims are only subject to the law unless they apply the laws of their home country or other regulations governing family or personal status.
  • For expatriates, the reforms will undoubtedly be a reassuring development because they will give them the security they require for their personal affairs in the UAE. Having a Will in place will also give expatriates the assurance they need to confidently plan their inheritance and name guardians following their particular wishes.
  • The will, which will be recorded in the register set up by the court, governs all inheritance-related issues. Or if the decedent dies intestate, according to the legal guidelines.

Important Provisions of the UAE Non- Muslim Family Law

  1. Women and men have the same rights.

Regarding witness evidence, estate distribution, and the ability to divorce, Article 4 gives men and women the same rights and duties. “Women will now be equally able to apply for divorce, testify as witnesses, and make child custody decisions.”

Find Right Here! How to Choose the Best Divorce Lawyers or Attorney? 

  1. No need for Guardian Consent

The wife’s father’s consent is no longer required for civil marriage in the UAE, and witnesses are not required. Civil marriage in UAE will be legal, and Article 5 specifies the requirements for one. “Both parties must not be related and must be at least 21 years old. Obtaining the wife’s father’s or guardian’s approval was formerly required, but that need has been eliminated.

  1. Witnesses are not necessary.

A Civil marriage in the UAE may now be only based on the “will of the husband and the wife,” who must sign out a declaration form in front of a court. Previously, the marriage required two male witnesses, but this need has been removed.

  1. Concept of No-fault divorce 

The requirements for a mutual or unilateral divorce are outlined in Articles 6, 7, and 8. “If one partner indicates their wish to divorce, they are free to do so without giving a reason. There is no longer a necessity for either side to place blame. Additionally, this stops the other party from slow-walking the divorce process and restricting the petitioner’s liberties. Any spouse may request a divorce by filing a court application without providing evidence of the reasons for the divorce. After informing the other spouse, the court will issue a judgment granting the divorce.

  1. No required mediation session

Additionally, there is no longer a need to attend a required mediation session, and the judge may issue a divorce during the first hearing.

One may divorce their marriage under this new legislation without proving wrongdoing or wrongdoing to the other party. Unlike before, there is no longer a need to provide a defence or explanation. It is hoped that by doing this, the divorce will happen under the new law quickly, peacefully, and amicably.

  1. Alimony Requirements

According to Article 9, the woman has the right to request alimony from her husband by signing a form approved by the court. If the husband rejects the wife’s plea for financial support, the court will have the authority to take into account different considerations, including:

  • The marriage’s duration
  • The age of the wife
  • The parties’ respective financial status
  • The extent to which the spouse contributed to the divorce,
  • The financial harm that the divorce has caused to either party.
  • The extent of the husband’s financial support for the wife and children
  • How much attention the wife has given to the children.

You may need to know : Alimony of wife in the UAE

  1. Joint- custody of Children

Article 10 establishes the idea of shared parenting duty. In a disagreement over parental responsibilities, either parent may apply to the court for exclusive custody by excluding the other. The court will analyze the facts and determine who is given custody based on what is in the children’s best interests and their well-being and safety.

The new legislation permits shared custody between the mother and father until the child reaches the age of 18, at which point the youngster will have the option to continue living with either parent. The court may give the petitioner exclusive custody if a reasonable cause is shown to the court that the other parent is ineligible during the shared custody arrangement.

You want to know: How can a father get full custody of his child in the UAE?

  1. Laws applicable to Inheritance
  • A non-Muslim foreigner may make a will and give it to one they think fits.
  • The husband or wife will be entitled to receive half of the Inheritance in the absence of a will, and the other half will be divided equally among the children, with no distinction made between male and female offspring.
  • The bequest will go to the parents equally if the deceased has no children.
  • If the parents are not present, the siblings will share the Inheritance equally, without regard to gender.
  1. Validation of paternity

According to the new rule, non-Muslims must be married or have their paternity acknowledged to establish fatherhood. If the parentage is uncertain, DNA testing will be performed.

For more information about the New UAE Non-Muslim Family Law, don’t hesitate to contact our Family Lawyer in Dubai at HHS Lawyer and Legal Consultants.

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.