Abu Dhabi issues new law for Non-Muslims

His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE in his capacity as ruler of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi on Sunday issued a law to regulate personal status for non-Muslims in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

The decision, which is the first of its kind in the world, will enhance the Emirate’s position and global competitiveness as one of the most attractive destinations for talent and skills.

The law supports the Emirate’s leadership by issuing the first civil law governing non-Muslim family matters in line with international best practices.

It also guarantees the right of non-Muslims to be subject to an internationally acknowledged law that is familiar to them in terms of culture, customs and language, as well as to protect the best interests of children, particularly in the case of parental separation.

A specialised court dedicated to non-Muslim family matters has also been introduced.

All the procedures of the court will be in Arabic and English to ensure foreigners understand them and to improve judicial transparency.

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

Marriage

Non-Muslim couples in Abu Dhabi can now marry “based on the will of both the husband and wife”, meaning consent from the wife’s guardian is no longer mandated.

Divorce and Custody of children

The law gives spouses the right to divorce without the need to prove harm was done in the marriage and divorce can be applied by either of the spouses. Previously, harm had to be proven to court or the divorce would not be granted.

According to the law, divorce among non-Muslim couples can now be granted at the first hearing without the need to go to the family guidance department and couples separating will no longer be required to go through mandatory reconciliation sessions.

Alimony or financial rights of the wife will be based on several criteria, such as the number of years of marriage, the age of the wife, the economic standing of each of the spouses and other considerations.

Under the law, custody of children will be equally shared between between the parents so as to preserve the psychological health of the child and reduce the effects of the divorce on the child.

Inheritance

The new law ensures the right of a foreigner to draw up a will giving their property to whoever they wish.
In the absence of a will, half of a person’s estate will now go to the surviving spouse. The other half will be distributed between the deceased’s children equally.
Previously, a son would obtain a larger share of the inheritance.
If the deceased has no children, the inheritance will go to their parents, or it may be split equally between one surviving parent and the deceased’s siblings.
Wills for non-Muslims should be registered during the signing of their marriage certificate.

Proof of Paternity

The new law states that proof of paternity for non-Muslims will be based on marriage or the recognition of paternity.

The non-Muslims will now enjoy the privilege of freedom and human rights in line with international best practice.