What are UAE’s new laws on child custody, marriage, and divorce for non-Muslim residents?

The new laws for non-Muslim residents in the UAE are all set to drastically change how matters regarding marriage, divorce, inheritance, and custody will be handled. Let’s know about each one of these, one by one.
UAE's new laws for non-muslim residents!
UAE's new laws for non-muslim residents!

The “Federal Personal Status Laws”, the new family laws for non-Muslim residents of the United Arab Emirates were adopted on the first day of February 2023

These laws are set for non-Muslim foreigners and expatriates residing in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). These laws encompass a myriad of aspects relating to family law such as marriage, divorce, child custody, wills, paternity, inheritance, and more.


These laws are not a result of an overnight process. Late President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan approved the reforms on November 27, 2021, and on February 1, 2023, these laws were enacted. Late President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan made changes to around 40 various laws in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). No wonder these laws are one of the most essential legislative reforms in the UAE.


The provisions of the new law- EXPLAINED!

Let us dig into the news laws one by one.


  • Marriage

As per the new law, non-Muslim couples of age 21 or above are entitled to marry sans the consent of the wife’s father or guardian. Prior to the adoption of this law, it was a mandate to have a myriad of male witnesses in marriages. However, the requirement of male witnesses is not necessary. As per the new law, the marriage only requires the “will of the husband and the wife”. The couple who wishes to marry is simply required to fill out a declaration form in front of a judge.


  • Divorce

Both entering into a marriage and getting out of the marriage are made simple by the new law. Mutual consent of the husband and the wife, or even the assent of one spouse alone is enough for the initiation of the divorce. Articles 6, 7, and 8 of the Abu Dhabi laws talk about the concept of “no-fault divorce”. As per this aspect, spouses can divorce without the need to prove that their spouse has caused any harm in the marriage or is in any way at fault. Family counseling or mediation were some of the earlier requirements, but now, as per the new law, these requirements have been scrapped. Moreover, divorces won’t take much time now. Willing partners who wish to get separated from their married partners will now be getting divorced in an efficient and speedy way, mostly in the very first hearing itself.

It is also important to talk about the post-divorce request form here. Yes, a novel post-divorce request form is brought forward for support payment, alimony, family requests, or maintenance. In situations of disagreements in financial matters such as alimony, the court will make some necessary considerations regarding the financial status of both partners, the wife’s age, and the marriage’s duration.


  • Witness testimony

In issues that need witnesses, both men and women have been accorded equal opportunity. This means that a man’s testimony will not have more power than a woman’s testimony. In simple words, a woman’s testimony will have the same value as a man’s testimony. Additionally, the new laws aim to inculcate this equality in matters like inheritance, divorce, and property matters too.

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  • Inheritance

Foreign non-muslims are now entitled to give their property to anyone they wish to as per a will. In case the ex-pat passes away sans a will, then in that case, the property and assets will be equally divided among the living spouse and children. In situations where there are no children, the property will be equally split among surviving parents and siblings.


As per the prior Sharia laws, the majority of the deceased’s inheritance would be transferred to the son, even in the absence of a will. Now, however, things are all set to be changed as both son and daughter are going to be entitled to inheritance equally in case a person passes away intestate.


  • Custody

After a divorce, joint child custody is going to be granted to both parents, unless any of the parents raise an objection to it. As a default norm, joint child custody is maintained until the child reaches the age of 18 years. After reaching the age of 18 or attaining majority, the children can decide for themselves. In situations of a dispute, the court shall make a decision in the best interest of the child.

  • Paternity


The news laws include provisions for paternity as well. The main indicators here are the marriage or declaration of the mother or father. In case the parent is not known, a DNA test will come to use. Earlier, only married couples were entitled to the birth certificate of an unborn child. However, now, as per the new law, even unmarried mothers are entitled to apply for this.

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