New civil law on non-Muslim family issues dawn of new era

Undoubtedly, the law is revolutionary in its scope of offering greater personal freedoms to non-Muslim residents



Wam file
Wam file

An important marker of a nation’s modernity is the law of the land. When there are concerted efforts made to change the legislations that impact lives, one sees a change on the ground. The UAE has been a country in transition, and the many leaps it has made in terms of laws and governance have only contributed to making it an attractive place for expats. With the establishment’s gaze firmly fixed at improving the quality of life of both citizens and residents, major steps are being taken from time to time to resolve any impediments to their daily lives. Thus far, non-Muslim expats have had to fall back on the laws of their own land when it came to personal matters, such as divorce, child custody, inheritance and marriage. A new law issued by Abu Dhabi aims to regulate this.

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Comprising 20 articles, the law provides clear answers to some key queries. The most important one is introduction of civil marriages premised on the will of both husband and wife, and in which consent from the woman’s family need not be taken. It also enables a couple to divorce each other without having to prove that any harm was caused, and either of them can appeal for it. It must, however, be noted that prior to this, it was imperative to prove that harm was caused for a couple to secure a divorce. That’s not all. Divorce can also be granted at the very first hearing, without couples having to go through reconciliatory sessions following a period of separation. Equally important is the fact that the alimony received by the wife will now be based on criteria, such as age, economic position of each of the spouses and years of marriage, among others. When separating, child custody can be shared between parents.

As far as inheritance is concerned, a non-Muslim expat can now draw a will that states who s/he is passing his property to. The law will also regulate the proof of paternity, providing that it is based on marriage or recognition of paternity. Undoubtedly, the law is revolutionary in its scope of offering greater personal freedoms to non-Muslim residents and is in line with internationally accepted norms. The most heart-warming aspect, however, is how it aspires for a fair chance at marriage and divorce, while keeping the interests of the child at its centre. The law is also likely to attract more expats as it attempts to offer clarity to a non-Muslim’s personal status and addresses the smallest concern.


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