Under What Conditions Are Divorces Denied in The United Arab Emirates?

family law


February 28, 2022



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When dealing with divorce, you might have inadvertently come across various facets of what is commonly referred to as ‘family law’. The term ‘family law’ in the UAE broadly refers to the following set of laws:

  1. Federal Law No. 28 of 2005 on ‘Personal Status’ and its amendments (Personal Status law) governs all aspects relating to the marriage, divorce, maintenance, child custody, succession and guardianship matters concerning UAE nationals and residents who are Muslims. The personal status law is guided by the Islamic principles of Sharia and its traditions.

  2. Federal Decree-Law No. 41 of 2022 on ‘Civil Personal Status’ (Civil Personal Status Law) governs aspects related to marriage, divorce, maintenance, custody, inheritance, wills and other personal matters for UAE nationals and residents who are non-Muslims. The civil personal status law has been enacted keeping in view international standards and practices.

Expats in the UAE are also allowed to apply foreign law in the UAE courts. The application of foreign law is also subject to the provisions of the UAE Civil Code, and in general, the applicability is restricted to certain underlying conditions.

Additionally, non-Muslims residing in Abu Dhabi are subject to the Abu Dhabi Law No. 14 of 2021, On the Civil Marriage and its Effects in Abu Dhabi, which is in line with the UAE Civil Personal Status Law.

Divorce Under the UAE Personal Status Law

Article 100 of the Personal Status Law states that a divorce can be initiated either by the husband or anyone acting on his behalf by a special power of attorney or by the wife or anyone acting on her behalf by a special power of attorney, according to what was agreed upon in the marriage contract, however, it must be documented according to the procedures followed in the UAE courts. It is also required that the divorce be established in the court by evidence through two witnesses in contested divorces.

The major grounds that are accepted as valid reasons for divorce in non-mutual or contested divorce include:

  • Physical Violence
  • Verbal Abuse
  • Mental Harassment
  • Adultery
  • Desertion or Separation

Further, for these reasons to be considered valid, they need to be evidenced by solid proof such as police reports, written communication, medical reports, witness testimony etc.

Divorce Under the Civil Personal Status Law

The concept of no-fault divorce, which was earlier recognized by Abu Dhabi under Law No. 14 of 2021, has been carried into the Civil Personal Status Law as well. Article 7 states that either of the spouses has the right to initiate divorce proceedings against the other, without having to prove any reason for the same, or to indicate any damage or fault of the other spouse. The divorce will take place even if the other spouse objects to it.


The Divorce law in UAE thus differs depending upon your nationality, whether you are Non-Muslim or Muslim, as well as your Emirate of residence or work. Thus, contested divorce matters often run into complexities either due to the application and choice of law, as well as due to the underlying facets part of a divorce process such as payment of maintenance, claiming custody of the children, maintenance for children, and so on.

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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