The UAE government announced updates to their legislations on marriage, divorce, and child custody for non-Muslim residents
13 December 2022| Last updated on 16 December 2022
The new updates to the law will be implemented from February 2023.
UAE officials have announced several reforms to the family law.
The new federal decree law will come into effect from February 1st, 2023 and will apply to non-Muslim residents (both foreign expats and citizens).
The changes to the UAE's personal status laws will see Abu Dhabi's civil family court system implemented across the rest of the emirates. The reforms to the UAE's family law are regarding non-Muslim marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance, with the goal to further modernise the country's legal system.
Reforms to the UAE's marriage law for non-Muslims will "regulate the marriage conditions and the procedures of contracting and documenting the marriage before the competent courts", said state news agency, Wam.ae
The changes will allow non-Muslim couples, whether foreign expats or citizens, to marry in a non-Sharia legal process.
Couples who wish to tie the knot are required to be at least 21 years old, and both parties must fill out a declaration form in front of a judge in the civil court.
Previously, this has only been in practice in Abu Dhabi for non-Muslims. The new changes will be implemented across the UAE starting from February 2023.
Divorce between non-Muslim couples in the UAE will also see a change in proceedings.
As per the new law reform, a divorce "can be initiated jointly or unilaterally. It organises the procedures for settling the financial claims after divorce, and the arrangement of joint custody for the children."
From February 2023, either spouse can ask the court to end their marriage, without the need to justify its end. A divorce may be granted after just one hearing with a judge, said The National.
Previously, couples seeking a divorce are required to attend family guidance counselling or meditation sessions.
What about financial alimony?
Financial alimony will also be decided by taking into account several factors, including the length of the couple's marriage, the husband and wife's personal financial status, and the wife's age.
Child custody law
If a divorced or soon-to-be divorced couple has children, both the mother and father will automatically be given joint and equal custody of the child until he or she is 18 years old.
Should there be a custody dispute, the court will be involved with consideration always given to the child(ren)'s best interests.
What happens if a witness testimony is required?
From February 2023, a woman's witness testimony will be given equal value to that of a man's testimony.
According to the UAE government, the new reforms will allow non-Muslims to register their wills along with their marriage certificate. The couple can decide to give their property to whoever they wish.
What happens if there isn't a will?
If the couple doesn't have a registered will, then 50% of the person's property will go to the surviving spouse. The other 50% will go to their child or, if there is more than one child, it must be distributed equally between their children.
If there are no children, then the other 50% will be distributed to the deceased's surviving parents or siblings.