New Laws Governing Family Matters for Non-Muslims in the UAE_


The UAE has made it easier for non-Muslim expats to meet their expectations on personal life without affecting UAE culture and beliefs. 

With these new amendments the UAE Government hopes to attract talent from around the world and enhance the UAE’s status as the best place to work and live in the Middle East. 

Some of the key takeaways are: 

1. Mediation is not Mandatory 

Under the new law, one has the right to divorce their spouse without showing harm of fault. Divorces will also be granted upon first hearing with the judge, enabling it proceed amicably and swiftly. 

2. Equality in Rights

The new law emphasises equals rights  and obligations for men and women in regards to: 

Witness Testimony: Expat women testimony shall be similar to an expat man’s testimony. 

Estate: shall be distributed equally between men and women without regard to gender, religion or nationality.

Right to Divorce: Equal rights to both spouses to ask for divorce unilaterally. 

Joint Custody: men and women shall have equal right of custody of children until the age of 18, upon which the child will have freedom to choose. 

3. No Fault Divorce

If one spouse wishes to end the marriage, they may do so without providing a reason. 

4. Alimony Consideration 

A wife is entitled to apply for alimony using the court prescribed forms. Based on the divorce the court has the right to evaluate the alimony amount which has to be paid to the divorced women. 

Some factors taken into consideration:

  • Length of marriage 
  • Age of the wife 
  • Transfer of financial assets 
  • Economic state of each spouse 
  • Extent of the husband contribution to the divorce 
  • Compensation by either spouse for any moral or material damage resulting from the divorce 
  • Financial damage resulting from the unilateral divorce 

5. Joint Custody 

The custody of the child shall be joint until they are 18 years old. After which the child may choose who they want to live with. 

Either parent may request to remove the child should they be exposed to an inappropriate environment or other situations deemed unfit. 

6. Parentage Proof 

The parentage of the child shall be proven by marriage or by the approval from father and mother and the birth certificate shall be issued as per the laws in force.

Please note that the court may order a DNA test. 

7. Inheritance 

In the absence of a will and should one of the spouse’s pass away, half of the inheritance shall go to the surviving spouse and the remaining 50% shall be distributed equally between the children regardless of their gender. 

If a will is drafted, the non-muslim expat may leave his or her assets to a beneficiary of their choice. 

8. Recognition of Civil Marriage 

Civil Marriages will be recognised given that both husband and wife are at least 21 years old and consent to the marriage. 

The marriage cannot be between prohibited degree of relations as specified by the implementing executive regulations. 

Marriage ceremony may be concluded by an officer of the court by submitting the appropriate form as required by the court. 

Closing Remarks

This new law only applies to non-Muslim expats living in the UAE unless they choose to apply their home country law or other legislation regulating family status. 

CRESCO Legal has helped many family’s navigate through family law in the UAE and is equipped to assist you. 

To get in touch send us an email on [email protected]  

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