Non-Muslim Divorce Law in UAE: What You Need to Know?

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February 1, 2023, marks the enforcement of a new personal law for non-Muslims in the UAE, namely, Federal Decree-Law No. 41 of 2022, on Civil Personal Status (Non-Muslim Personal Status Law). The federal law follows in the footsteps of Abu Dhabi’s Non-Muslim Personal Status Law which has proved to be efficient in dealing with personal matters of non-Muslim citizens and residents of Abu Dhabi. The federal personal status law seeks to cover the non-Muslim population of the entire country.

What is the scope of application of the new federal personal status law?

Article 1 of Federal Decree-Law No. 41 of 2022 governs the following:

  1. Non-Muslim citizens of the UAE
  2. Non-Muslim expatriates and residents of the UAE, unless one of them insists that the law of their own country be applied in matters related to marriage, divorce, inheritance, wills, and proof of parentage.

Which type of matters are exclusively dealt with in the new law?

The new law expressly recognizes civil marriage contracts, exception from family guidance mediation, equal rights and duties for women, divorce and alimony, child custody and proof of parentage, inheritance, and wills.

What does the new law say on matters of divorce?

Either spouse can file for divorce, as provided by Article 7 of the new law. The request for divorce need not be justified, nor any damage be proved. The respective court will pronounce divorce after notification to the other party.

How will alimony be determined under the new law?

When a divorced woman files for alimony and the marriage contract does not say anything in terms of alimony or other financial arrangements, the same will fall upon the discretion of the judge. The judge will decide alimony based on the following factors, as per Article 9 of the new law:

  1. Number of years of the marriage
  2. Age of the wife
  3. Financial status of each spouse
  4. Husband’s contribution to the divorce
  5. Compensation paid by either of the spouses in lieu of damage inflicted on the other
  6. Financial loss suffered by either spouse as a result of unilateral divorce
  7. Whether the mother is diligent towards children

The alimony will be forfeited if:

  1. The woman marries another man
  2. The custody of the children with the mother ends

Who can take custody of children after divorce?

As per the new law, custody of children is a right granted to both the father and the mother equally, as well as it is a right of the children to have both parents raise them, to minimize the psychological effect of divorce on them (Article 10).

The primary rule in terms of custody is that the father and the mother shall have joint custody over the children. However, the court may maintain an application by either party:

  1. Of granting custody to whoever is capable of achieving the best interests of the child, or
  2. Seeking to waive the right of custody, or
  3. Excluding the other party and forfeiting the right to custody because of non-eligibility, danger of such custody, or the party failing to perform their duties.

In cases where joint custody is disputed, the court will have discretion in the decision, keeping in mind the best interests of the child. Overall, the new law is a welcoming gesture in the adoption of international best practices.

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