UAE law reforms on marriage, divorce to take effect for non-Muslims from February 1

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UAE law reforms on marriage, divorce, child custody will take effect for non-Muslims from February 1

New UAE law on marriage, divorce, and child custody will be applied to non-Muslim expatriates starting from February 1, the UAE Government announced.

The Federal Personal Status Law was first announced last December 2022 to further modernize the UAE legal system, bringing the civil family court system of Abu Dhabi across the country.

In October 2022, children born outside of marriage became eligible for birth certificates. In January 2022, revisions to the UAE’s civil laws took effect, decriminalizing relationships and pregnancies outside marriage and allowing unmarried couples to live together.

What are changes in marriage?

The new legislation will “regulate the marriage conditions and the procedures of contracting and documenting the marriage before the competent courts.” This allows non-Muslim couples to marry in a non-Sharia legal process.

Couples should be at least 21 years old, and parties should fill out a declaration form before a judge. This has been in effect in Abu Dhabi since February 2022, when non-Muslim couples have been able to marry in the civil court, like a registry office wedding in the UK or Europe.

What are the changes in divorce?

Either spouse can ask the court to end the marriage without proving who is at fault or providing justification. Divorces may be granted after just one hearing, and family guidance counseling is no longer required as they were before.

When a couple filing for divorce has children, joint and equal custody of the children is automatically given until they are 18 years old. When there are custody conflicts, the court may get more involved with consideration to the best interest of the children. If witness testimony is necessary, a woman’s testimony is equal to a man’s.

Financial alimony is based on several factors, including the length of the marriage, the wife’s age and the financial status of both the husband and wife.

What are changes in inheritance?

Non-Muslims are allowed to register wills at the same time as their marriage certificate, allowing them to give their property to whoever they wish.

In the absence of a will, 50 percent of a person’s estate will go to their spouse, while the other 50 percent will be distributed equally between any children. If the couple is childless, the 50 percent will go to living parents or siblings. KD/Expat Media


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