Family Law Update – The New Law in Abu Dhabi

Family Law Update – The New Law in Abu Dhabi

Family Law – UAE and UK

A new Law on Personal Status for Non-Muslim foreigners was issued in Abu Dhabi recently to include matters relating to marriage, divorce and custody.  

The aim of the new law is to provide a flexible judicial arena for the determination of personal status disputes between resident non- Muslim expatriates in Abu Dhabi; preserve the expatriates right to submit to an internationally recognized law; achieve and promote the best interests of the children; reduce animosity resulting from a divorce and preserve the parents’ respective roles following the divorce.  

Marriage – Civil marriages may be carried out between non- Muslim expatriates provided that :

  • The parties are 18 years of age or over
  • Each party must declare their consent to marry  to the Judge 
  • The parties must sign a disclosure Form  

Article 5 of the new Law sets out the procedure for the parties to marry, interestingly exempting them from the previously required premarital medical examination.  

Divorce – can take place at the first session without the previously required mandatory family guidance stage.  Further, upon the parties’ declaration of their desire to divorce, a divorce will be granted without the need to demonstrate harm or place any blame on the other party.  

A post divorce process has been added for a wife to apply to the Court for financial support from her husband.  Unless the provisions for financial support following the divorce have been stated in the marriage contract, the Judge will now have wide discretion to include consideration of factors such as : the length of the marriage; the age of the wife; the economic status of each party; the extent of the husband’s contribution to the divorce; compensation provided by either spouse to the other; financial damage sustained by either spouse and consideration of matter concerning the children including maintenance and care of the children.  

Many of the provisions appear to resonate Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 as provided for in the English Law and will surely be a welcomed provision for many non-Muslim expatriates divorcing through the Abu Dhabi Courts.    

Custody – Article 9, specifically states that child custody is a joint and equal right of a father and mother after divorce  and a right for child that no parent exclusively acquires the right of parental authority and visitation in order to preserve the mental health of the child and reduce the negative effects of divorce on the child.  

Article 16 of the new Law, preserves the equal rights of men and women therefore allowing both men and woman to ask for a divorce without prejudice to their respective rights relating to divorce and for both men and women to have equal joint custody of the children until they reach the age of 16.  

The above is a general commentary on the various matters and should not be construed as specific legal advice.

For further information or advice in relation to any family matters, please contact Dee Popat or our Family Department.

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