Major changes in UAE family law Feb. 1
Abu Dhabi’s civil and family court system, which allows non-Muslim couples to divorce and marry through a non-Shariah court process, will be rolled out nationwide on Feb. 1, 2023. The federal law for expatriate non-Muslims, announced earlier, covers key family issues such as marriage, divorce, inheritance and child custody.
It talks about giving equal rights to men and women in certain matters. Previously, a couple seeking a divorce in a local court would follow a process based on Shariah, which is quite different from how it is done in their home country. Many chose instead to marry, divorce, or probate abroad. Non-Muslim couples can now marry based on the will of the husband and the will of the wife, which means that the consent of the wife’s father or guardian is no longer required. The requirement that several Muslim men be present as witnesses has also been eliminated. Couples will be able to file for divorce without having to prove either party’s guilt. Divorce can be approved at the first hearing without the need to attend family counseling sessions or mandatory mediation. Alimony and other financial requests can be applied for using a form on the web site after the divorce.
Procedures will be introduced to deal with child custody issues after a divorce. Previously, it was the case that a father could immediately request custody of his son at age 11 and his daughter when she turned 13. Now the court will determine who takes custody, with the interests of the child being the deciding factor.
The new laws provide for the right to bequeath property to anyone the testator chooses. In the absence of a will, half of a person’s property will be left to their spouse, and the rest will be divided between their children.
Proof of paternity for non-Muslims will be based on marriage or acknowledgment of paternity, with DNA tests if paternity is unknown.