Overview of Family Law in the UAE
The law which regulates and governs family disputes in the UAE is coded and contains provisions relating to marriage, dissolution, custody and guardianship, amongst others. The relevant law is the Federal Law No 28 of 2005 on Personal Status in the UAE (Personal Status Law).
For non-Muslims in Abu Dhabi, the rules may be different as Abu Dhabi Law No. 14 of 2021 applies to personal status matters for non-Muslims based in Abu Dhabi. However, the Personal Status Law continues to apply to Muslims in Abu Dhabi.
Financial Support to the Wife During Marriage
Under the Personal Status Law, alimony is defined as including clothing, food, housing, medical care, amongst others.
Article 63/1 of the Personal Status Law, which defines alimony states as follows.
“Alimony includes food, clothing, dwelling, medical care, servicing charges for the wife, if she is performing such services within her family, and all what the conjugal relationship kindly requires.”
In determining the amount of alimony, there are many factors which will be taken into account, including the financial ability of the husband, the circumstances of the wife, having regard to the contemporary standards.
If the husband has not provided this financial support to the wife during the marriage, the wife may be able to claim these expenses from the date of the refusal to provide such support. This is subject to her proving to the court that such financial support has been denied by the husband. However, a claim for backdated expenses is barred if it is for a period exceeding three years under Article 67 of the UAE Personal Status Law, unless there is an agreement between the parties.
Article 67 of the Personal Status Law states the following.
“Alimony to the wife is due as of the date of refrainment from payment when due as a debt on the husband, independently of a court judgment or agreement. It is not forfeited except by payment or discharge. A claim in alimony, for a past period exceeding three years from the date of introducing action in court, shall not be heard unless it is imposed by agreement.”
It is crucial to note that the wife can file a maintenance court case to claim financial support for her and her children without filing a divorce case. The husband cannot claim maintenance from the wife unless the parties have joint assets.
Is lack of financial support a ground for divorce?
If there is lack of financial support by the husband, making life together impossible for the parties, the wife may file a case for divorce, on grounds of divorce due to harm. That said, the spouse must prove the lack of financial support before the court. If the claims are not proved, the lawsuit would be rejected.
Article 124 of the UAE Personal Status Law states as follows.
“1- If the present husband abstains from supporting his wife and he does not have apparent funds from which he can pay, within a short time, the due alimony, the wife may ask separation.
2- Should he allege to be insolvent but with no evidence as to his allegation, the judge shall order immediate divorce. If he keeps silent as to his being solvent or insolvent and insists on non-support, even if there is evidence of his insolvency, the judge shall grant him a respite of not more than a month after which, if he does not comply with his duty of support, the judge shall order divorce.”
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 expat 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