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

family law


April 12, 2022



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Expatriates have enjoyed living in the UAE for many years but often do not understand the application of the UAE laws on them. In this series, we are covering the laws applicable to family matters in the UAE which have implications for expatriates.

In Part I of the series, we discussed the overall personal status laws applicable in the UAE, the court’s jurisdiction over foreign residents in the UAE and the types of divorces recognized in the UAE. In this Part II of the ongoing series, we will understand the application of foreign law in personal law matters in the UAE and the types of claims usually seen in divorce matters.

Application of Foreign Law

Expatriates may want to apply foreign law in the UAE for their personal matters. The application of foreign laws is subject to two main rules:

  • The law of the State where marriage was concluded (Article 13). As an example, if citizens of India concluded their marriage in the UK, the law of the UK will apply.

  • Dual nationality of the party (Article 24). If a party has dual nationalities, the courts may reject the application of foreign law and UAE law may become applicable even if the marriage was concluded abroad. The courts exercise discretionary powers while considering the application of foreign laws, based on the merits of individual cases.


In case the divorce has been granted, a wife is entitled to claim certain financial rights. These rights are given following the UAE laws. Some of these rights could be as follows.

  1. Dowry (Mahr): It is an amount which is agreed between the parties at the time of marriage and is of two types: (i) prompt dowry (mokadam), which is paid at the time of marriage; and (ii) deferred or late payment (moajal), which is written in the contract. The deferred payment is payable at the time of divorce.

  2. Compensation for divorce (nafket motta’a): Compensation is to be given to the wife in case the divorce was issued to the wife by the husband with no valid ground. According to the UAE Personal Status Law, the compensation amount will not be given to the wife if she was an applicant in the divorce proceedings.

  3. Reimbursement of backdated expenses: In case the husband has not financially supported the wife, the wife has the right to claim back-dated expenses which are equivalent to the wife’s day-to-day expenses for the last 36 months. If the wife claims such expenses, the husband would have to prove that he had financially supported the wife. If case of failure to prove such support, the court may order the husband to pay such amounts to the wife.

  4. Maintenance: Maintenance can be claimed by the wife during marriage, during the waiting period (iddah) and for the children. She also has the right to seek a custodian salary.

During Marriage

A wife has a right to claim maintenance support from the husband, subject to the financial ability of the husband. However, a husband cannot claim maintenance.

Child Support

The right to claim child support from the father is established under Article 78 of the UAE Personal Status Law. Both Emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi have their guidelines on the amount to be given as child support, which depends on the number of kids and the husband’s financial ability.

Custodian Salary

Custodian salary is the salary given to the wife for taking care of the children and is one of the amounts which is provided to the wife as part of alimony.

Property Claims

The husband could file a financial claim on the joint assets if he is the sole contributor to such assets.


We have discussed the issues relating to the divorce including the claims applicable.

But in whose custody do the children fall? What are the protections against the relocation and kidnapping of children? We will explore this and more in the next Part of this series.

Legal Update:

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. To know more information about this law, please feel free to click this link. To know more information about this law, please feel free to click this link.

Read the other parts here: Part 1 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

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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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