UAE issues new federal family law for non-Muslim residents

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The UAE has issued a new law pertaining to the personal status for UAE’s non-Muslim residents. The country’s official news agency WAM reported on Friday that the new law will come into effect on February 1, 2023.

It said issuing the law comes as part of the country’s efforts to develop its legislative system, and to support its endeavours and aspirations for the next 50 years, and to strengthen its leadership as a destination for tolerance, coexistence, family stability and demographic diversity.

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The provisions of the law regulate the marriage conditions and the procedures of contracting and documenting the marriage before the competent courts.

The law specifies the procedures of divorce that can be initiated jointly or unilaterally. It organizes the procedures for settling the financial claims after divorce, and the arrangement of joint custody for the children.

Moreover, the law organizes the procedures for inheritance and testaments (wills), and proofs of paternity.

Dr. Hasan Elhais from Al Rowaad Advocates in Dubai, explained that the new law shall apply to non-Muslims in the UAE regarding marriage, divorce, inheritance, will, and proof of paternity unless any of them insists on implementing the law of their country.

Moreover, non-Muslim foreigners may agree to implement other legislation on family or personal status in force in the UAE instead of the provisions of this law.

“According to this law, women are granted equal rights in regards to providing witness testimony, inheritance, the right to file for divorce, and joint custody of the children until they are 18 years old. Subsequently, the children will have the right to choose between their parents,” said Elhais.

“This means that women’s testimony in court will be equal to that of a man.”

He explained that in regards to custody, it is granted equally to both parents unless one parent submits a request to the court seeking to exclude the other parent based on the best interest of the child.

“In this case, both parents will be able to file requests to court which will then decide what is best for the child.”

He said civil marriage contracts are acknowledged by this law and must meet a set of conditions that include the need fornspouses to be at least 21 years old, and to give approval by filling out a declaration form in front of the judge.

To file for divorce according to the new law, one spouse must inform the court of their desire to terminate their marriage, without having to justify, explain or blame the other spouse.

They can request a divorce without proving that any harm was done during their marriage.

“Some of the changes that stand out in this law is its adoption of the Gregorian calendar instead of Hijri and dismissing the requirement to seek family guidance in cases of divorce,” said Elhais.

“One more important change is that alimony is now calculated and decided based on several factors that include years of marriage, the financial status of both spouses, and the extent of how much the husband is responsible for the divorce.”

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