New personal status law to be applicable to non-Muslims in Abu Dhabi
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New personal status law to be applicable to non-Muslims in Abu Dhabi

New personal status law to be applicable to non-Muslims in Abu Dhabi

A new bilingual court will also be set up in the emirate to deal specifically with these matters, with all procedures conducted in Arabic and English

Abu Dhabi, Etihad Towers complex.

A new law has been issued to regulate personal status matters including civil marriage, divorce, joint custody of children and inheritance for non-Muslims in Abu Dhabi.

The UAE President and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, issued the law on Sunday. It applies to civil principles in the regulation of family matters, according to Youssef Saeed Al Abri, Under-Secretary of the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, reported state-run news agency WAM.

Al Abri also announced the establishment of the first court dedicated to non-Muslim family matters. All the procedures of the new court will be bilingual in Arabic and English to facilitate the understanding of judicial procedures by foreigners and to improve judicial transparency.

The law consists of 20 articles divided into several chapters covering civil marriage, divorce, joint custody of children and inheritance.

The first chapter of the law regulates the marriage procedures of foreigners before the court by introducing the concept of civil marriage based on the will of both the husband and wife. The second chapter defines the divorce procedures for non-Muslims, the rights of the spouses after divorce and the discretion of the judge in assessing the financial rights of the wife based on several criteria, such as the number of marriage years, the wife’s age, the economic standing of each spouse and other considerations that the judge takes into account in determining the wife’s financial rights.

The third chapter introduces a new concept in post-divorce child custody, namely the sharing of custody equally between the father and mother, or what is known in Western countries as “joint or shared custody, aimed at safeguarding the family’s cohesion after divorce and preserving the mental health of the children.”

The fourth chapter addresses inheritance issues, the registration of wills for non-Muslims, and the right of a foreigner to draw up a will devolve all his/her property to whomever he/she wishes. Meanwhile, the fifth chapter of the law regulates the proof of paternity for non-Muslim foreigners, providing that the proof of paternity of the newborn child is based on marriage or recognition of paternity.

The law, believed to be the first of its kind in the world, was reportedly introduced to bring non-Muslim family matters in the emirate in line with international best practices.

Exactly a year ago, on November 7, 2020, the UAE introduced sweeping changes to its laws with regards to inheritance, alcohol consumption, honour crimes, divorce and cohabitation, among others. Among several other measures introduced by way of that law, the penal code and criminal procedural code was amended such that the article allowing lenient sentences for what is termed as “honour crimes” has been repealed.

Read: Sweeping changes to UAE laws on inheritance, alcohol consumption, cohabitation and honour crimes

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