'I no longer have to worry about my divorce': UAE expats laud new personal status law for non-Muslims

This federal decree-law — which will come into effect in February 2023 — is a progressive step in the country's legal system, Emirati lawyer says


Nasreen Abdulla

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Reuters file photo
Reuters file photo

Published: Sat 10 Dec 2022, 7:33 PM

Last updated: Sat 10 Dec 2022, 9:06 PM

When UAE expat L.M. filed for divorce recently, he was a bit worried about how court procedures would go in the Emirates. However, with the issuance of a new decree-law on personal status on Friday, he is now at ease — like many other residents in the country.

L.M said he has looked at the new law and is happy with the provisions. “The new law is very much in line with what I am used to in my home country,” he said. “I knew I could choose to get my national laws applied but this new decree-law puts my mind at ease.”

This new federal decree-law for non-Muslims in the UAE — which will come into effect in February 2023 — is "a progressive step in the country's legal system", said Emirati lawyer and legal consultant Diana Hamade, founder of Diana Hamade Attorneys at Law.

“As a legal practitioner and an expert on UAE law I am glad to see this step in our legislative system where non-Muslims are not subject to a Sharia-based law," Hamade said.

This new Federal Personal Status Law of seven pages covers marriage, divorce, and inheritance of non-Muslim nationals and expats residing in the UAE. This will regulate marriage conditions and the procedures at the courts and specify the divorce processes that can be initiated jointly or unilaterally.

According to Hamade, the new law is an answer to long-standing concerns of legal practitioners in the country.


“The UAE legislator did address the needs of non-Muslims living in the UAE by giving them the option of applying their national laws to their family law matters, in the Personal Status Law 28 of 2005 and then applying the law of their respective marriages through a subsequent amendment. But finally, the long-awaited law is issued and will come into force in February 2023," the expert said.

The new decree-law also organises the procedures for settling the financial claims after divorce, and the arrangement of joint custody for the children. Moreover, the decree-law puts in place the procedures for inheritance and testaments (wills) and proofs of paternity.

Expats' wills

Dubai resident Annu George said she was relieved to hear the news.

“A few years ago, a friend’s husband passed away unexpectedly, and it created a few issues for her and her three children,” she said.

“My friend had to then fly in her aged mother-in-law to sign documents so that she could get custody of her children. It was a difficult situation for her to deal with at such a devastating time. Due to the issues, she faced, my husband and I wrote our wills. This new law is definitely a relief for non-Muslims residents.”

Notable features of the law, as explained by Diana Hamade

  • The law has benchmarked the Abu Dhabi Law No. 15 of 2021 concerning personal status for non-Muslim Foreigners which in turn is based on the French Civil Family Law in matters of custody and divorce finances.
  • The law has 18 articles dealing with the scope of application of the law, the civil marriage, the no-fault divorce, then the divorcée financial rights upon divorce, followed by joint custody.
  • Article 11 under Chapter 5 there are 3 articles that deal with wills and inheritance, followed by an article related to proof of parentage.
  • The law sets the age of the end of custody at 16 and grants joint custody to the parents. The law also awards the wife alimony after divorce, similar to the French law, prestation compensatoire, rather than a division of assets which is the way the English Law determines finances on divorce.
  • The regulations anticipated for the law are expected to be similar to Resolution No. (8) of 2022 concerning the Marriage and Civil Divorce Procedures in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The UAE Federal Decree law 42 of 2022 shall be applicable in all of the Emirates of the UAE, unless any of the Emirates has its own Emirate law, like the Emirate of Abu Dhabi where the Emirate Law may be applicable.


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