UAE: Non-Muslim expats hail new family law

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


Ismail Sebugwaawo

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Photo: File
Photo: File

Published: Mon 8 Nov 2021, 4:39 PM

Last updated: Mon 8 Nov 2021, 4:56 PM

Abu Dhabi expats have welcomed the new family law that will allow non-Muslims to marry, divorce and get joint child custody under civil law.

The residents have stressed that the significant changes made to the family status law will ease their life and solve legal issue.

The new law, which was issued on Sunday by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE and the ruler of Abu Dhabi, covers civil marriage, divorce, alimony, joint child custody and proof of paternity, and inheritance.

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.

Jethroefel Esposo Ramboyong, 48, a Filipino telecommunications engineer says he sees this law as a great initiative benefiting expats, more so to non-Muslims.

“The initiative shows compassion to the legal needs of expats away from home. If both parties are residence of UAE, there is no need to go home to settle things in cases of marriage, divorce, joint child custody, and proof of paternity and inheritance. They can settle things legally in UAE without going home and without prolonging the process,” he said.

Advaita Sharma, founder & CEO at Urban Lifestyle Redefined Ltd. says, the law is good and liberal, giving a lot of rights to expats.

“On one side, it simplifies the whole process, the downside of which is higher divorce rates, due to the non-inclusion of family or parents. While the global divorce rate is on the high, Indians still value the belief, that marriages unite two families and not just two individuals,” said Sharma.

Echoing similar sentiments, Dickson Ayodeji Onabajo, 44, a Nigerian expat says issuing such a law was a great move and development from the ever-tolerant UAE leadership.

“The non-Muslims will now enjoy the privilege of freedom and human rights in line with international best practice,” he said.


>>UAE: New law issued on marriage, divorce, inheritance for non-Muslims

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

Ana Maria Oloresisimo Paler, a Filipino mother, who is also a banker, says the changes made to the family affairs law are good. “But in the event that the family is in the UAE, the parent who made the decision to leave the family should bear all the consequences of this action,” she said.

“I don’t think the children should be shared by both parents. But the father, who in most cases leaves the home, should have visiting rights to see his children. The father should not have custody of the children unless the mother is psychologically incapable to handle the matter,” she said.

According to authorities, the law intends to confirm Abu Dhabi’s leadership by issuing the first civil law governing non-Muslim family matters in line with international best practices. This guarantees the right of non-Muslims to be subject to an internationally acknowledged law that is familiar to them in terms of culture, customs and language, as well as to achieve and protect the best interests of children, particularly in the case of parental separation.

Register your wills, says expert

Mohammad Marria, Managing Director of Just Wills says although changes have been made to the ways how inheritance matters are dealt with, according to the new law, he still strongly recommends that residents have their wills registered to avoid any misunderstanding.

“Majority of why people make a will is usually for the “guardianship” of their children. For this you must have a local will to cover the interim guardianship as your will in your home country will not cover this,” said Marria.

“Inheritance laws in both your home country and the UAE may not be as per your wishes as each and every country has their own laws. So by having a Local will, you can decide on the shares i.e. who receives what and at what age.”

Marria says parents can also decide on the appropriate executors i.e. someone living in the UAE to deal with the local execution.

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