UAE announces personal status federal decree-law for non-Muslims in country

It regulates various procedures including those for marriage, divorce, and inheritance


Afkar Ali Ahmed

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Reuters file photo
Reuters file photo

Published: Fri 9 Dec 2022, 3:56 PM

Last updated: Wed 1 Feb 2023, 6:20 AM

A new federal decree-law concerning the personal status of all non-Muslim foreigners in the UAE will come into effect on February 1, 2023, the government announced on Friday.

The Federal Personal Status Law will regulate marriage conditions and the procedures of contracting and documenting the marriage before the courts.

It also specifies the procedures of divorce that 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. Moreover, the decree-law organises the procedures for inheritance and testaments (wills) and proofs of paternity.

Legal expert Dr Hasan Elhais from Al Rowaad Advocates lauded the law, saying this will give women equal rights in court procedures.

"Women’s testimony in court will be equal to that of a man,” he said. "They will be granted equal rights in filing for inheritance, divorce, and joint custody of children until they are 18 years old," said Elhais. "Subsequently, the children will have the right to choose between their parents in case of divorce."

Under this law, custody can be shared by both parents — unless one submits a request to exclude the other.

“In this case, both parents will be able to file requests to the court, which will then decide what is best for the child,” Elhais said.


Civil marriage, divorce

This law will acknowledge civil marriage contracts, provided that they meet a set of conditions, the legal expert said.

Spouses must be at least 21 years old, for example, and a declaration form must be filled out in front of a judge.

To file for divorce under the new law, one spouse must inform the court of their intent to terminate the marriage, "without having to justify, explain or blame the other spouse".

They can request a divorce without proving that any harm was done during their marriage, Elhais said.

“Some of the changes that stand out in this law is its adoption of the Gregorian calendar instead of Hijri and dismissing the requirement to seek family guidance in cases of divorce,” he added.

“One more important change is that alimony is now calculated and decided based on several factors that include years of marriage, the financial status of both spouses, and the extent of how much the husband is responsible for the divorce.”


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