Abu Dhabi – New Family Law For Expats – Family and Matrimonial

Emily Parkin


United Arab Emirates:

Abu Dhabi – New Family Law For Expats


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On 7th of November, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, Ruler of Abu Dhabi
and President of the United Arab Emirates issued amendments to the
personal status law in essence decreeing the Abu Dhabi family law
(“AFL”) which would be applicable to non-Muslim
residents of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

The purpose of AFL is to revamp the personal status legislation
in the emirate and bring Abu Dhabi in line with international
practices and bolster the emirate’s position as a destination
for talent and investment.

The AFL moves away from the previous position under the UAE
Federal Personal Status law as it successfully addresses a number
of key concerns, among others, for non-Muslims including civil
marriage, divorce, custody of children and inheritance for
non-Muslims.

Key changes brought under the AFL:


  • the AFL permits civil marriage between non-Muslims which can be
    registered in the UAE;


  • provide gender equality between men and woman, particularly with
    regards to issues on divorce, inheritance, custody and taking of
    any testimonies in Court;


  • a specialist court will be established to hear disputes relating
    to non-Muslim affairs;


  • non-Muslim foreigners will be able to apply foreign law on
    matters of divorce;


  • parties can obtain divorce without either party having to accept
    fault;


  • in the absence of a will, half the estate would go to the spouse
    and rest distributed equally between the children of the deceased
    irrespective of the gender.

These are but a few of the changes brought about by the AFL, the
changes are a positive development and a first of its kind in the
region. The purpose of the new law is to promote Abu Dhabi’s
position as an international city and entice global talent. We
expect more legislative amendments and reforms to come in Abu Dhabi
as well as other Gulf states and neighbouring cities as they would
be inclined to pass similar legislation to keep pace with the
reforms and improve UAE’s overall offering as an
international destination.

Originally Published 13 November 2021

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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