In his capacity as the Ruler of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has issued Abu Dhabi Personal Law No. 14/2021 On Personal Status for Non-Muslim Foreigners in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi which regulates personal status matters for non-Muslims in Abu Dhabi to provide a flexible and advanced judicial mechanism for civil family matters disputes.
INTRODUCTION to ABU DHABI PERSONAL LAW
The aim of the law is to support civil law international practices with the aim of harmonization in full respect of the relevant cultures, languages, and customs outside the UAE, with UAE legal influence, of course There are specific requirements for each subject that promote the adoption of a regulatory framework which enables non-Muslim foreigners to embrace the benefits of this regulation. The principle of equality between males and females is the mainstay which rules the rights and obligations of this Law.
While the federal personal status law applies to all UAE nationals and non-nationals (with exceptions provided for), Abu Dhabi has a separate personal status law for foreigners. The Law No. 14/2021 On Personal Status for Non-Muslim Foreigners is applied to “Non-Muslim Foreigners is Abu Dhabi”. What means that this Law will be applied to any male or female non-Muslim foreigner, having a domicile, residence or place of work in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
This law is considered a subsidiary legislation, subject to articles 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 27 and 28 of the Federal Law No. 5 of 1985 of the Civil Transactions Law of the UAE. Article 3 of the Personal Law specifies that if a Foreigner does not request the application of the law of his country, the Court shall apply UAE Law to the subject-matters of marriage, Divorce, inheritance, Wills and proof of lineage.
This law consists of 20 Articles divided into six chapters covering civil marriage, divorce, custody of children, parentage and inheritance, addressed below:
SCOPE OF THE ABU DHABI PERSONAL LAW
A Civil Marriage, according to this Law, is a “perpetual marriage of a foreign non-Muslim man and woman”. Therefore, in order to apply this law in a civil marriage, both spouses shall be Non-Muslim.
In order to contract a Civil Marriage, the spouses shall explicitly give their consent by filling a declaration form before the Authentication Judge and they cannot be less than eighteen years old.
It does not establish the applicable financial regime that regulates marriage in the event that the parties do not choose it. The law only specifies that “both spouses may agree on the conditions of the contract, and they shall take into consideration the rights stipulated in the contract for each spouse during the marriage period and for the post-Divorce phase”. Therefore, at the time of marriage in the UAE between foreigners, it would be the time to agree on the law to be applied to the marriage. In the event that this is not so selected, the default law to be applied to the marriage will be UAE Law. This is by virtue of Article 1 of Federal Decree-Law No. 30 dated 27/09/2020, “The law of the State where the marriage was concluded shall govern the personal and financial impacts resulting from the contract of marriage.” Therefore, UAE law will be applied to the financial regime of the spouses in case they do not expressly select a different law.
Another characteristic to highlight is that while marriage shall not be established between siblings, or with children, grandchildren, or uncles, it leaves the door open to marriage between cousins, as this is an accepted practice in the UAE.
DIVORCE UNDER ABU DHABI PERSONAL LAW
A divorce is the termination of a marriage contract by unilateral or mutual will of the spouses. Divorce between Non-Muslim foreigner only requires that one of the spouses declares before the Court his willingness for separation and for ending the marital relationship, without the need to justify or demonstrate any damage or to blame the other party. The divorce will be effective upon the notification of the party´s willingness.
One of the main differences between Muslims and Non-Muslims divorces is in terms of process. Non-Muslim Foreigners Divorces will be referred directly to the Court and will not have to go through the Family Guidance Committee, which Muslim processes will need to still do.
The financial support to the wife, will be granted after the divorce judgement following a request for alimony request. Such request will be decided by looking into a number of factors such as the longevity of marriage, the age of the wife or the divorcing economic status, among others.
One of the factors where the influence of morality in the law is reflected is that the judge will take into consideration the extent to which the husband contributes to the Divorce, which means that the husband will have to give a greater amount of money to his ex-wife if it is proven that his acts, neglects or his mistakes led to Divorce.
Furthermore, any spouse shall compensate the other for any material or moral damage resulting from the Divorce.
CUSTODY OF CHILDREN
The general rule applicable to divorcing Non-Muslim foreigners is that parents have the right to maintain and exercise their roles in raising and caring for their children upon separation, on equal and common basis, and the children have the right not to be deprived of any of their parents as a consequence of the divorce.
The reason behind Joint Custody is to achieve and protect the best-interests of the children, and to limit the repercussions of Divorce on the couple’s children.
The parents can request before the court to waive the right of custody of the other parent by presenting evidence explaining the reasonableness of said deprivation.
Any dispute that arises between the parents regarding their children may be resolved by the judge, who has discretionary power to take any decisions in this respect.
INHERITANCE AND WILLS
A will is a disclosure performed by the foreigner about his willingness to dispose his funds or a part thereof upon his death, according to the provisions of the Personal Law.
The spouses may fill in the Form of registration of the Wills of non-Muslims while signing the marriage contract, to determine the method of distribution of the funds in case of death of any of them.
The foreign testator has the right to leave a Will to whomever deemed adequate (right of free will), concerning all the assets belonging thereto in the State.
In the event of absence of a Will, then half of the inheritance shall be assigned to the husband or wife and the other half shall be equally distributed among the children with no difference between males and females. In the case that the deceased has no children then the inheritance shall equally belong to the parents thereof, or half of such inheritance shall be transferred to one the parents in case the other one is not present and the other half shall be granted to the siblings. If there are no living parents, then the inheritance shall be equally distributed between the siblings without distinction between males and females.
A child’s paternity should be proved by marriage or by declaration of the father or mother. Even though, under the UAE law, marriage is the only legal bond for a man and a woman to get legal recognition of their child. It is recently accepted that in the case of a single Mother, she is eligible to apply for sponsorship of her children in the UAE, by fulfilling the requirements and submitting a custody Verdict of Court or Certificate from Local Authority or Affidavit.
You cannot miss one of my latest videos of our Managing Partner Maria Rubert in her Youtube channel where she shares the steps to register kids in Dubai if you are not married.
CONCLUSION ON ABU DHABI PERSONAL LAW
Non-Muslim family matters subject to this new law are to be handled by a new court that will be set in place in Abu Dhabi and will operate in both English and Arabic. This will facilitate the understanding of judicial procedures by foreigners and improve judicial transparency by providing a flexible and developed judicial mechanism for the settlement of the personal status disputes of Foreigners.
Even though this law is a great step to bring closer the international family legislative approach, there are matters adopted by other countries on which the UAE has not yet ruled and are in legal limbo such as surrogacy or domestic partnership.
For more information about the life in Dubai you can visit our posts, particularly divorce in the UAE or retirement in the UAE.
**This information does not intend to be legal advice and the content is merely indicative and is subject to change as relates to governmental decisions.