What Are the Key Takeaways from The New Laws Governing Family Matters for Non-Muslims in the UAE?

family law


November 23, 2022



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The introduction of a new personal status law for the non-Muslims effective February 2023, the Federal Decree-Law No. 41 of 2022 on Civil Personal Status, brings with itself numerous changes in terms of marriage, divorce, custody, inheritance etc. Following the issuance of the Abu Dhabi Personal Status Law for non-Muslim Foreigners in 2021, the federal government came out with a Personal Status Law that would apply to the entire non-Muslim population of the UAE, whether citizens or expatriates.

This New Federal Law has introduced changes in personal status matters for non-Muslims in matters related to family guidance mediation, rights between the parties concerning testimony, inheritance, divorce, calculation of time-based on the Gregorian calendar, and joint custody of children. The New Federal Law has introduced civil marriage at a federal level and provided equal rights to parties in requesting the divorce. The New Federal Law covers matters related to alimony, custody, inheritance, and parentage and shall be applied between non-Muslim expatriate residents in case none of them wanted to apply his/her home country's law in the UAE.

Application of the New Federal non-Muslims Personal Status Law

The Law shall be applied in the following situations:

  1. On non-Muslim citizens of the United Arab Emirates, as well as expatriates.
  2. Non-Muslims residing in the country unless one of them adheres to the application of his law, concerning matters related to marriage, wills, and proof of parentage, without prejudice to the provisions of Articles (12), (13), (15), (16), and (17) of Federal Law No. (5) of 1985.
  3. Parties subject to the provisions of this Law may agree to apply other laws regulating family or personal status in force in the country instead of applying the provisions of this Law.

The provisions of this Law shall be effective from February 2023.

No mandatory mediation in the family matter before the commencement of the court case

The Divorce cases shall be excluded from being considered by family guidance committees and shall be directly referred to the Court to issue a judgment in this regard from the first session.

The new amendment in the family law offers equality to men and women in their following rights and obligations:

Witness testimony: an expatriate woman's testimony shall be similar to an expatriate man’s testimony.

Estate: estate shall be distributed equally between men and women without regard to gender, religion or nationality.

Right to Divorce: equal rights to both spouses to ask for divorce unilaterally.

Joint Custody: men and women shall have equal rights of custody of children until the age of 18 and subsequently the child shall have the freedom of choice.

Recognition of Civil Marriage

The New Federal Law recognizes the concept of civil marriage and provides the following regulations:

  • Both husband and wife must be at least 21 years old, and consent to the marriage.
  • The marriage cannot be between the prohibited degree of relations as specified by the implementing executive regulations.

The marriage procedures may be concluded by an officer of the court, by submitting an appropriate form required by the court. Parties may include their rights during the marriage, and after divorce.

No-Fault Divorce

If the law was applied, the divorce could be given to any of the parties based on a no-fault divorce in the first court hearing where none of the parties may be required to provide any reason for the divorce.

Factors for Quantification of the Alimony Amount

Based on the divorce, the court has the right to evaluate the alimony amount, which has to be paid to a divorced woman. The law has specified several different factors to evaluate this amount, for example:

  • Length of the marriage
  • Wife’s age
  • Transfer of financial assets
  • The economic status of each spouse
  • The extent of the husband’s contribution to the divorce
  • Compensation by either spouse for any material or moral damage resulting from divorce
  • Financial damage resulting from unilateral divorce

The wife’s alimony shall be forfeited in case she remarries, or the custody is dropped for any reason. Moreover, the wife may submit a request to increase the alimony after one year should the circumstances change.

Introducing the Concept of Joint Custody

According to the New Federal Law, custody shall be joint for the children until they are 18 years old. Subsequently, they will have the right to choose. Either of the parent may request to remove the other parent who has subjected the child to an inappropriate environment, and other situations, which will be provided exhaustively in the implementing executive regulations.

In the event of disagreement between the parents, they may approach the court to decide concerning custody matters. The child’s best interest remains the governing rule in custody disputes.

No Concept of Forced Heirship

A person subject to the New Federal Law has testamentary freedom subject to the rules of the implementing executive regulations. If a person dies intestate, half of the inheritance shall go to the surviving spouse, and the remaining shall be distributed equally between the children without any difference between a girl or a boy. The New Federal Law provides details of distribution in various other scenarios as well when the surviving heirs are other than children and spouses.

Parentage Proof

The child’s parentage shall be proven by marriage or by the approval of the father and mother, and the birth certificate shall be issued as per the laws in force. The court may order a DNA test to be carried out, and it should not issue its order by proving the lineage of the person who claims it, except after verifying the following:

  • That the child is of unknown parentage.
  • The difference in age between the child and the person claiming parentage is likely to ascribe parentage to such a person.

The New Federal Law also provides that a new decision may be issued regulating adoption and surrogacy family.

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Disclaimer: There have been recent changes/amendments in the provisions of the UAE Family Law covered in the content on this website. The views and opinions in the articles are contemporaneous with the time of its publication only and do not necessarily address any matters after the recent amendments of the law or supreme court decisions issued after the date of this publication. The content of this website contains general information and may not reflect current legal developments. Such content is designed only to give general information on the developments actually covered. It is not intended to be a comprehensive summary of recent developments in the law, treat exhaustively the subjects covered, provide legal advice or render a legal opinion. Since the law is constantly changing and since the law will vary based on different facts and circumstances, statements on this website regarding the status of a given law or legal issue may not be current or applicable to your particular situation. You should not take any action based on the information in this website. Each legal issue depends on its individual facts and different matters have different laws and regulations. We may make changes to the features, functionality or content of the website at any time.


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