How UAE’s new laws change marriage, divorce, and inheritance for non-Muslim residents


Non-Muslim couples no longer need to obtain consent from the woman’s father or guardian in order to marry. Couples can also now file for ‘no-fault divorce’ – meaning they no longer have to prove any harm was done to them during the marriage

The UAE’s new laws for non-Muslim residents are set to take effect today.

The new laws, referred to as “Federal Personal Status Laws”, govern issues such as marriage, divorce, joint custody, inheritance and Wills.

A couple previously seeking divorce in the UAE would have to do so under Sharia law.

Though the laws only came into force today, they were approved in November by the late president his Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

According to the UAE state news agency WAM, the laws are meant to “regulate marriage, conditions, and procedures of contracting and documenting the marriage before the competent courts” for non-Muslims outside of Sharia law.

Let’s take a closer look at how these laws will change things for non-Muslims in the UAE:


According to The National, non-Muslim couples no longer need to obtain consent from the woman’s father or guardian in order to marry.

The couples can get married simply “based on the will of husband and wife”.

The requirement for several Muslim males as witnesses has also been done away with.

Abu Dhabi’s family court proceedings are akin to a registry office in Europe or the UK, as per The National.

According to, marriages for non-Muslim expats must meet the following conditions:

  • Neither husband nor wife should be under the age of 18
  • Their ages shall be verified by the document issued by their country
  • They must agree to the marriage before the judge
  • They must establish there is no legal reason they cannot get married
  • They must sign a declaration form
  • There can be no marriage with siblings, children, grandchildren, or uncles
  • Any other conditions prescribed in a decision of the chairman.


Couples have been granted the option of filing for a ‘no-fault divorce’, as per The National. This means they have been granted the right to divorce without having to prove that harm was done to them during the marriage.

This means either party can ask the court to end the marriage without proving one person was at fault.

The requirement for family counselling and mandatory mediation sessions before divorce have also been done away with.

Divorce may be granted at the first hearing itself, as per The National.

When it comes to alimony and other requests, a “post-divorce request form” will have to be filled out.

In case any dispute in financial matters arises, several factors including the length of the marriage, the age of the wife and the financial status of each party will be considered.


According to Indian Express, unless there are any objections both parents will be granted joint custody of children after a divorce.

In the UAE, joint child custody is the norm until the child comes of age – after which they can choose for themselves.

In case the parties cannot agree, the court will rule after considering the child’s best interests.

Earlier, mothers would automatically be given custody of daughters (under the age of 13) and sons (under the age of 11).

Fathers can only apply for custody after the children have crossed this age.


When it comes to inheritance, an individual can now leave a Will to the person of his or her choosing, as per

In case no Will is made, half the inheritance will go to the husband and the other half in equal share amongst their children.

No distinction shall be made on the basis of gender.

In case the marriage produced no children, the parents of the deceased shall receive the inheritance.

In case the parents are themselves deceased, the siblings of the individual who passed away shall receive equal shares – again with no distinction on the basis of gender.

This comes six months after the UAE’s ministry of justice announced that it would enforce judgments issued by English courts.

As per Khaleej Times, the International Cooperation Department of the Ministry of Justice on 13 September issued a resolution requesting courts to take all the legal steps required to acknowledge and enforce orders by English courts.

“If a British expat fled the UK to avoid implementing a court decision, they could see the ruling against them being enforced here in the UAE,” said Dr Hasan Elhais from Al Rowaad Advocates, told Khaleej Times.

The decision covers financial cases and asset division disputes between couples or family members. Before being submitted to a judge at one of the country’s civil courts, an English court ruling must be final and irrevocable, as per the newspaper.

With inputs from agencies

This article originally appeared on and was reproduced here with permission


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