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Everything to Know About the UAE’s New Federal Laws on Marriage, Divorce, Child Custody, and Inheritance

HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Photo: Wam

The UAE‘s new federal law concerning its non-Muslim expatriates’ key family matters such as divorce, inheritance, and child custody will come into effect on February 1, 2023.

Announced in December 2022, the law allows the entire country’s non-Muslim couples to get married in a non-Sharia legal process. While the law was first introduced only in Abu Dhabi in February 2022, it will now be applicable nationwide as a federal law. It also specifies the procedures for divorce, which can be initiated jointly or unilaterally in an effort to promote equal rights. This means either spouse can now ask the court to end their marriage, without proving that the other spouse is at fault or justifying the need to end the marriage.

“According to this law, women are granted equal rights in regards to providing witness testimony, inheritance, the right to file for divorce, and joint custody of the children until they are 18 years old,” says Dr Hasan Elhais from Al Rowaad Advocates in Dubai. “Subsequently, the children will have the right to choose between their parents,” he added. “This means that women’s testimony in court will be equal to that of a man.”

In the case of inheritance, non-Muslims will be allowed to register their wills at the same time as their marriage certificate, giving them autonomy over their property. If no will has been submitted, 50% of the person’s assets will go to their spouse, while the other 50% will be distributed equally between any children. If the couple does not have children, the remainder will then go either to any surviving parents, or siblings.

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