Law on Family Matters for Expatriates Living in the UAE: Part V

family law


September 14, 2022



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In this final Part V of the series on family law matters for expatriates in the UAE, we continue to understand the key changes brought by the new law in the Emirates of Abu Dhabi, which has significant implications for non-Muslim locals and expatriates in Abu Dhabi.

Financial Rights of the Wife

One of the key changes introduced by the Abu Dhabi law is the wife’s right to claim compensation on a lumpsum basis after the divorce has occurred. The amount would be determined based on the assessment of several factors. These factors include:

  1. years of marriage: the amount will increase based on the length of the marriage;
  2. contribution to the failure of marriage: such as neglect, infidelity or abandonment;
  3. economic, financial and social status of each spouse;
  4. loss of opportunity if the wife had to stay in the house, especially if the husband requires the wife to not work;
  5. number of children, ages and their dependency on the parents; and
  6. the difference in income between the spouses.

The court may designate an expert to estimate the financial amount due to the wife after the divorce. The court and the expert will take into account a percentage of the monthly income of the husband, the percentage of the market value of the husband’s property including real estate, shares and stock, and the joint money between the spouses.

The husband could be ordered to pay the determined amount in one shot or instalments.

Custody Rights of the Parents

Under the new Abu Dhabi law, both parents have equal rights to joint custody of the child which could be arranged on a weekly, bi-monthly or monthly basis. Joint custody is applicable till the age of 16, after which the child is entitled to choose his custodian. That said, either parent can be removed from joint custody, which will be decided by the court, if the child, who has reached the age of 12, wants such removal.

The rights of joint custody can be forfeited and one of the parents can claim sole custody if certain cases are met, which is finally decided by the courts. Some of the key ones include:

  1. the child is at risk of being exposed to domestic violence or abuse; or
  2. living conditions provided by a parent are inadequate; or
  3. abuse of drugs or alcohol or any psychotropic substances; or
  4. remarriage of a parent.

Conflicts related to custody will be resolved by courts expeditiously, keeping the child’s best interest as the core consideration and taking into account the child’s existing lifestyle.

Travel Ban

Both parents are entitled to place the child on a travel ban – banning the child from travelling for a temporary period. The relevant parent would need to apply to the court for this travel ban on the ground that there is a potential flight risk. The ban would be subject to the court’s discretion.


Under the new Abu Dhabi law, spouses now have a right to agree that any disputes between them would be settled by arbitration through one or three arbitrators. The spouses can agree on arbitration either before or after the family dispute has arisen. The law of the UAE relating to arbitration is called Federal Law No. (6) of 2018 will apply to family arbitrations.


The Abu Dhabi Non-Personal Status Law is a ground-breaking initiative in the Emirates of Abu Dhabi towards giving rights to the expatriate in line with the international best practices, taking into account the local customs, culture and language. It remains to be seen whether other Emirates of the UAE will follow the lead of Abu Dhabi and introduce similar laws for non-Muslim expatriates and locals soon. Meanwhile, the UAE Personal Status Law would continue to apply to the rest of the UAE.

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.

Read the other parts here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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