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February 22, 2023
February 1, 2023, marks the enforcement of a new personal law for non-Muslims in the UAE, namely, Federal Decree-Law No. 41 of 2022, on Civil Personal Status (Non-Muslim Personal Status Law). The federal law follows in the footsteps of Abu Dhabi’s Non-Muslim Personal Status Law which has proved to be efficient in dealing with personal matters of non-Muslim citizens and residents of Abu Dhabi. The federal personal status law seeks to cover the non-Muslim population of the entire country.
What is the scope of application of the new federal personal status law?
Article 1 of Federal Decree-Law No. 41 of 2022 governs the following:
Which type of matters are exclusively dealt with in the new law?
The new law expressly recognizes civil marriage contracts, exception from family guidance mediation, equal rights and duties for women, divorce and alimony, child custody and proof of parentage, inheritance, and wills.
What does the new law say on matters of divorce?
Either spouse can file for divorce, as provided by Article 7 of the new law. The request for divorce need not be justified, nor any damage be proved. The respective court will pronounce divorce after notification to the other party.
How will alimony be determined under the new law?
When a divorced woman files for alimony and the marriage contract does not say anything in terms of alimony or other financial arrangements, the same will fall upon the discretion of the judge. The judge will decide alimony based on the following factors, as per Article 9 of the new law:
The alimony will be forfeited if:
Who can take custody of children after divorce?
As per the new law, custody of children is a right granted to both the father and the mother equally, as well as it is a right of the children to have both parents raise them, to minimize the psychological effect of divorce on them (Article 10).
The primary rule in terms of custody is that the father and the mother shall have joint custody over the children. However, the court may maintain an application by either party:
In cases where joint custody is disputed, the court will have discretion in the decision, keeping in mind the best interests of the child. Overall, the new law is a welcoming gesture in the adoption of international best practices.
The above information might not apply if both parties are non-muslim. Starting from the 1st of February 2023, UAE issued specific family law to be applied between non-muslim expatriate residents in case none of them wanted to apply his/her home country's law in the UAE. To know more information about this law, please feel free to click this link.