Latest Update: The UAE has Issued a Civil Personal Status Law for non-Muslims at the Federal Level. The New Federal Law comes after the effective application of a non-Muslims Personal Status Law existing in Abu Dhabi.

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 in relation to testimony, inheritance, divorce, custody. The New Federal Law has introduced civil marriage at a federal level, and provided equal rights to parties in requesting for divorce. The New Federal Law covers matters related to alimony, custody, inheritance, and parentage.

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, with regard to 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 law 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 1st February 2023.

No mandatory mediation in family matter prior to 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 Abu Dhabi family law offers equality to men and women in their following rights and obligations:

Witness testimony: an expat woman testimony shall be similar to an expat 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 right of custody of children until the age of 16 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 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 on the basis of 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
  • 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 the 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 subject 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 make a decision in relation to custody matters. Child’s best interest remain 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 spouse.

Parentage Proof

The child’s parentage shall be proven by marriage or by the approval from 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 person.

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