Family Laws for Non-Muslims in Abu Dhabi


at 7y In November 2021, the Emirate of Abu Dhabi issued a special law for the first time to accommodate non-Muslim personal status issues. Law No. 14 of 2021 was given and came into force as of December 15, 2021.

Before this law, Muslims and non-Muslims were subject to Federal Law No. 28 of 2005, but after the date of issuance of this law, all family disputes will not be subject to the old laws unless both parties agree that they are subject to the old laws.

In light of the foregoing, a non-Muslim expatriate residing in Abu Dhabi may be subject to one of the following three laws:

  1. Abu Dhabi Law No. 14 of 2021 for non-Muslims – in general, or
  2. Federal Law No. 28 of 2005 – only if both parties agree to be subject to this law.
  3. The law of the country of origin of one of the parties if he requests its application and if the other party objects to the application of that foreign law.

It is important to note that applying foreign laws to one of the parties may not be acceptable in one of the following scenarios:

  1. If one of the parties is of dual nationality. According to Article 24 of the UAE Civil Code, it will not be possible to apply any foreign law in the event that either of the parties is of dual nationality.
  2. If the party wishing to apply the foreign law is not able to bring the original, complete copy of the law, which is also fully certified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the country of origin of the law and the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates located there, and submit it in a copy translated into Arabic through one of the legal translation offices.

Non-Muslim parties who have been subject to the new laws may file for divorce on a no-fault basis, which means that divorce can be issued without having to provide any specific reasons for seeking divorce.

After the divorce is issued, the wife can file a financial lawsuit against the husband based on several factors:

  1. Number of years of marriage: The longer the marriage period, the greater the demand for alimony.
  2. Age of the wife – the amount granted is reduced if the wife is young.
  3. The financial portfolio of both spouses.
  4. The contribution of each party to the error or mistakes that led to the termination of the relationship.
  5. Compensating the wife for the physical, moral or financial damage she suffers as a result of the divorce.
  6. The divorced father shall assume custody of the children for a temporary period not exceeding two years – in the light of what the experts appointed by the court estimate.
  7. The type of care given by the wife to the children is also taken into consideration.

The amount of alimony for the wife can be increased or decreased annually, depending on changing circumstances.

The same law indicates that joint custody can be awarded to both parties, however, either parent can file custody claims by filing separate cases. So usually what we see in most cases is that one of the parties will apply for divorce without fault directly in court without the need to review the family guidance committee and then the courts decide on divorce and joint custody by default and if one of the parties if the parties are interested in claiming sole custody, he may file the case separately which also depends on the best interest of the child.

a question: When can parties use the Abu Dhabi Courts to benefit from the above rules?

Answer: Abu Dhabi courts may assume jurisdiction over family court disputes in the following cases:

  1. If the respondent resides or works in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
  2. If the marriage contract took place in Abu Dhabi.
  3. If the case is related to alimony for children or alimony for the wife, and if any of them are residing in Abu Dhabi.
  4. If the case was related to divorce or custody, the plaintiff was residing in Abu Dhabi and did not know the place of residence of the defendant.
  5. If the defendant decides to consider the Emirate of Abu Dhabi as his chosen address for filing the case.

a question: What would be the situation if one of the parties wanted to claim a right not specifically provided for in the law?

Answer: In this case, and only if the law does not list one of the rights of the party, that party may claim those rights under other applicable federal laws such as the UAE Civil Law or the UAE Personal Status Law No. 28 of 2005.

Finally, we must bear in mind that there is an executive decree issued regarding this law and no understanding of the law may be built without perusal of the implementing decree which will be dealt with in various articles.


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