Law on Family Matters for Expatriates living in the UAE: Part II

Al Rowaad Advocates & Legal Consultants | View firm profile


Expatriates have enjoyed living in the UAE for many years but often do not understand the application of the UAE laws on them. In this series, we are covering the laws applicable to family matters in the UAE which have implications for expatriates.  

In Part I of the series, we discussed the overall personal status laws applicable in the UAE, the courts’ jurisdiction on foreign residents in the UAE and the types of divorces recognized in the UAE.

In this Part II of the on-going series, we will understand the application of foreign law in personal law matters in the UAE and the types of claims usually seen in divorce matters.

Application of Foreign Law

It is obvious that expats may want to apply foreign law in the UAE for their personal matters. The application of the foreign laws is subject to two main rules:

  1. The law of the State where marriage was concluded (Article 13). As an example, if citizens of India concluded their marriage in UK, the law of UK will apply.
  2. Dual nationality of the party (Article 24). If a party has dual nationalities, the courts may reject the application of foreign law and UAE law may become applicable even if the marriage was concluded abroad.

The courts exercise discretionary powers while considering the application of foreign laws, based on the merits of individual cases.


In case the divorce has been granted, a wife is entitled to claim certain financial rights. These rights are given in accordance with the UAE laws. Some of these rights could be as follows.

  1. Dowry (Mahr): It is an amount which is agreed between the parties at the time of marriage and is of two types: (i) prompt dowry (mokadam), which is paid at the time of marriage; and (ii) deferred or late payment (moajal), which is written in the contract. The deferred payment is payable at the time of divorce.
  2. Compensation for divorce (nafket motta’a): Compensation is to be given to the wife in case the divorce was issued to the wife by the husband with no valid ground. According to the UAE Personal Status Law, compensation amount will not be given to the wife if she was an applicant in the divorce proceedings.
  3. Reimbursement of backdated expenses: In case the husband has not financially supported the wife, the wife has the right to claim back-dated expenses which is equivalent to the wife’s day to day expenses for the last 36 months. If the wife claims such expenses, the husband would have to prove that he had financially supported the wife. If case of failure to prove such support, the court may order the husband to pay such amounts to the wife.
  4. Maintenance: Maintenance can be claimed by wife during marriage, during the waiting period (iddah) and for the children. She also has the right to seek custodian salary.
    During Marriage
    A wife has a right to claim maintenance support from the husband, subject to the financial ability of the husband. However, a husband cannot claim maintenance.
    Child Support
    The right to claim child support from the father is established under Article 78 of the UAE Personal Status Law. Both Emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi have their own guidelines on the amount to be given as child support, which depends on the number of kids and the husband’s financial ability.
    Custodian Salary
    Custodian salary is the salary given to the wife for taking care of the children and is one of the amounts which is provided to the wife as part of alimony.
  5. Property claims: The husband could file a financial claim on the joint assets if he is the sole contributor to such assets.


We have discussed the issues relating to the divorce including the claims applicable.

But in whose custody do the children fall? What are the protections against relocation and kidnapping of children? We will explore this and more in the next Part of this series.

More from Al Rowaad Advocates & Legal Consultants