UAE: New law introduced for non-Muslims; all you need to know

The law covers civil marriage, divorce, alimony, joint child custody and proof of paternity, and inheritance

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Photo: File
Photo: File

Ismail Sebugwaawo

Published: Sun 7 Nov 2021, 5:03 PM

Last updated: Sun 7 Nov 2021, 6:44 PM

Non-Muslims will be allowed to marry, divorce and get joint child custody under civil law in Abu Dhabi according to a new decree issued on Sunday by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE and the ruler of Abu Dhabi.

It is the latest step in the United Arab Emirates — where personal status laws on marriage and divorce had been based on Islamic sharia principles, as in other Gulf states — to maintain its competitive edge as a regional commercial hub.

The decree said the law covers civil marriage, divorce, alimony, joint child custody and proof of paternity, and inheritance.

> A new court to handle non-Muslim family matters will be set up in Abu Dhabi and will operate in both English and Arabic.

>The new law consists of 20 articles divided into several chapters covering civil marriage, divorce, joint custody of children and inheritance.

>The law introduces concept of civil marriages based on the will of both the husband and wife. This means no consent from the woman’s family will be required.

>The law gives spouses the right to divorce without the need to prove harm was done in the marriage and divorce can be applied by either of the spouses. Previously, harm had to be proven to court or the divorce would not be granted.

>According to the law, divorce among non-Muslim couples can now be granted at the first hearing without the need to go to the family guidance department and couples separating will no longer be required to go through mandatory reconciliation sessions.

>Alimony or financial rights of the wife will be based on several criteria, such as the number of years of marriage, the age of the wife, the economic standing of each of the spouses and other considerations.

>Under the law, custody of children will be equally shared between between the parents so as to preserve the psychological health of the child and reduce the effects of the divorce on the child.


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>The law also addresses inheritance issues, where the registration of wills for non-Muslims, and the right of an expat to draw up a will devolving all his/her property to whomever he/she wishes.

>The law also regulates the proof of paternity for non-Muslim expats providing that the proof of paternity of the newborn child is based on marriage or recognition of paternity.

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