Understand the difference between a divorce ruling and marital settlement under UAE law


Divorce is an important legal process involving the dissolution of the marital relationship, division of assets, child custody arrangements, and financial obligations. In the UAE, divorce procedures are governed by various laws, including Federal Law No. 28 of 2005 (Personal Status Law) regarding Muslim marriage and Federal Decree Law No. 41 of 2022 regarding civil personal status for non-Muslims. Muslims in the United Arab Emirates, and Abu Dhabi Law No. 14/2021 for non-Muslims in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. This article aims to provide an overview of the difference between the divorce ruling and marital settlement under UAE law, taking into account the legal implications for both Muslim and non-Muslim couples.

Divorce ruling:

Divorce ruling refers to the formal judicial order issued by a competent judicial authority that ends the marital bond between the spouses. In the UAE, family matters, including divorce cases, are adjudicated primarily by Sharia courts. The divorce judgment is issued by the court for specific reasons such as desertion, abuse, or other legitimate reasons recognized by the court

The decision to divorce has legal consequences, primarily the termination of the marital relationship, and in many cases, affects other related matters, including child custody, financial support, and division of property. While the divorce decree means the dissolution of a marriage, it does not necessarily address the various issues that arise from the termination of a relationship.

Marital settlement:

Unlike the Divorce Ordinance, the marital settlement focuses on resolving dependency issues arising from the divorce. It is an agreement between the two divorcing parties that deals with various aspects, including child custody, visitation rights, spousal support, division of assets, and any other financial obligations. Marital settlement aims to provide clarity and an agreed framework for the practical aspects of life after divorce.

For Muslim couples:

When going to the family court to ask for a divorce, three types of reconciliations can take place for Muslim couples

Agreement to continue marriage without divorce: According to Article 16 of the UAE Personal Status Law, Muslim couples have the option to agree to continue their marriage without annulment. In this scenario, the couple agrees to reconcile and continue their marriage without asking for a divorce. This may happen through a marriage agreement or a settlement reached through the family court. In such cases, the court settles without issuing a judgment of divorce.

An agreement to divorce with specific terms and conditions: If the spouses agree to divorce with specific terms and conditions, the court issues a divorce judgment with agreement. This agreement deals with issues such as child custody, visitation rights, spousal support, and division of assets. Both the divorce decree and the agreement are issued by the court. This option provides a comprehensive solution where the divorce decree and agreement are obtained together.

Divorce without any marital settlement: In this scenario, only the wife gets the divorce judgment without any specific terms or conditions or any marital settlement based on the mutual consent of the spouses.

For non-Muslim couples:

Non-Muslim couples in the UAE have specific laws governing divorce procedures:

Divorce and marital settlement for non-Muslim spouses in the United Arab Emirates

Federal Decree-Law No. 41 of 2022 allows either spouse to file for divorce unilaterally without the need to prove fault or place blame on the other party. It is sufficient for one of the spouses to express his desire to separate before the court, which leads to the issuance of a divorce judgment. Also, according to Abu Dhabi Law No. 14/2021, divorce is considered the termination of the marriage contract at the sole will of the husband, and does not require proof of fault or damage.

Under Decree Law No. 41 of 2022, divorce cases filed by non-Muslim couples are excluded from referral to family guidance committees. The law allows either spouse to file for divorce without the need to prove harm or justify his request. Divorce becomes enforceable by court ruling and notification to the other party later.

Marriage and divorce procedures (Decree-Law No. 41 of 2022 and Abu Dhabi Law No. 14 of 2021)) Under both laws, non-Muslim couples contract the marriage by filling out a dedicated form before the notarial judge. The marriage contract may include conditions agreed upon by the spouses, including rights and obligations during the marriage and post-divorce stage.

Financial alimony upon divorce (Decree-Law No. 41 of 2022 and Abu Dhabi Law No. 14/2021), laws address the issue of financial alimony for the divorced spouse. After the divorce judgment is issued, the divorced woman can apply for alimony from her ex-husband. The court has discretion to determine the amount and duration of maintenance based on factors such as the duration of the marriage, the age of the wife, the economic status of both spouses, contributions to the divorce, and any material or moral damages incurred. Alimony adjustments can be made annually or in response to changes in circumstances.

Joint Custody of Children (Decree-Law No. 41 of 2022 and Abu Dhabi Law No. 14/2021) Both laws recognize the importance of joint custody in child custody matters. Non-Muslim parents, regardless of their gender, have an equal right to joint custody of their children after divorce until they reach the age of eighteen. The principle of joint custody aims to ensure the welfare of the child and reduce the negative effects of divorce. In the event of joint custody disputes, either parent can apply to the court for resolution.

Decree-Law No. 41 of 2022 Concerning Civil Personal Status for Non-Muslims in the UAE and Abu Dhabi Law No. 14/2021 provide legal frameworks for non-Muslim couples seeking divorce. While both laws share common principles regarding divorce proceedings, financial support, and joint custody


In the United Arab Emirates, divorce procedures are governed by Federal Law No. 28 of 2005, known as the Personal Status Law, which applies to Islamic marriage, Federal Decree Law No. 41 of 2022 regarding civil personal status, and Abu Dhabi Law No. 14/2021 for marriage of non-Muslims . The divorce process includes two distinct components: the divorce decree and the marital settlement. The divorce decree ends the marital relationship, while the marital settlement deals with dependencies arising from divorce. Understanding the difference between a divorce decree and marital settlement is crucial for individuals navigating divorce proceedings in the UAE to ensure that their rights and interests are protected within the confines of applicable law.

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