family law


August 28, 2023



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On 7th November 2021, the Emirate of Abu Dhabi issued a specific law for the first time to accommodate personal status matters for non-Muslims. The law was given Number 14 of the year 2021 and it was enforced from 15 December 2021.

Prior to this law, both Muslims and non-Muslims were subject to Federal Law No. 28 of 2005, but after the date of the issue of this law, all family disputes will not be subject to the old laws unless both parties agree to be subject to the old laws.

In light of the above, the non-Muslim expatriate resident in Abu Dhabi could be subject to one of the following three laws:

  1. Abu Dhabi Law No 14 of 2021 for non-Muslims - in general, or
  2. Federal Law No 28 of 2005 – only if both parties agree to be subject to this law.
  3. The Law of the home country of one of the parties if he requested to apply it even if the other party objected to the application of such foreign law.

It is important to note that the application of the foreign laws of one of the parties might not be accepted in one of the following scenarios:

  1. If one of the parties is a dual citizen. According to Article No. 24 of the UAE Civil Law, it will not be possible to apply any foreign law in case any of the parties are dual citizens.
  2. If the party who would like to apply the foreign law couldn’t bring the completed original version of the law which is also fully attested by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the country of the origin of the law and from the UAE Embassy located there and present it in a translated version to Arabic through one of the legal translation offices.

The non-Muslim parties who were subject to the new laws may apply for divorce on No Fault basis which means that the divorce could be issued without the need to provide any specific reasons to claim the divorce.

After the divorce is issued, the wife can claim a financial claim against the husband based on multiple factors:

  1. Number of years of marriage – the longer the marriage was, the more claim she has for the maintenance.
  2. The wife’s age – where the awarded amount decreases if the wife is young.
  3. The financial portfolio of both spouses.
  4. The contribution of each party’s mistake or faults which led to the termination of the relationship.
  5. Compensation for the wife for any physical moral or financial damage she faces because of the divorce.
  6. The divorced father shall cover the children’s custody expenses for a temporary period which doesn’t exceed more than two years - In light of what the court’s appointed experts would evaluate.
  7. The type of care given by the wife towards the children shall also be taken into account.

The amount given as maintenance to the wife could be increased or decreased on an annual basis depending upon the changes of the circumstances.

The same law indicates that custody could be awarded jointly to both parties, however, any of the parents can make claims of custody by filing separate cases. So usually what we see in most cases is that one of the parties will apply for no-fault divorce directly in the court without the need to approach the Family Guidance Committee then the courts would decide on divorce and joint custody by default and if one of the parties is interested to claim sole custody, he may raise the case separately which also depends upon the child’s best interest.

Question: When can the parties use the Abu Dhabi courts to get the benefits of the above-mentioned rules?

Answer: The Abu Dhabi courts may take jurisdiction in family court disputes in the following scenarios:

  1. If the respondent was a resident or working in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
  2. If the marriage contract was concluded in Abu Dhabi.
  3. If the case was about child support or wife support and if any of them were residents of Abu Dhabi.
  4. If the case was about divorce or custody the claimant was a resident in Abu Dhabi and the respondent’s location was not known.
  5. If the respondent has decided to consider the Emirates of Abu Dhabi as his chosen address for the litigation.

Question: What will be the situation if one of the parties would like to claim one of the rights that is not specifically listed in the law?

Answer: In this case and only if the law did not list one of the party’s rights, then this party may claim such rights under other applicable Federal Laws like UAE Civil Law or UAE Personal Status Law No. 28 of 2005.

Finally, we shall keep in mind that there is an executed decree issued about this law and any understanding of the law shall not be built without going through the executed decree which will be covered in different Articles.

Legal Update:
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.

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