The UAE has issued Federal Decree-Law No. 41 of 2022 on Personal Status for all non-Muslim foreigners, to be applied from February 1, 2023.

The new Decree-Law will introduce significant amendments to the family legislations, as it will regulate civil marriage conditions and the procedures of divorce that can be initiated jointly or unilaterally, as well as the procedures for inheritance and testaments and proofs of paternity, ensuring that equality between men and women in rights and obligations is observed.

Scope of Application

The provisions of the Decree-Law apply to non-Muslim foreigners residing in the country unless someone adheres to the application of their own country’s law. Moreover, non-Muslim foreigners may agree to implement other legislation on family or personal status in force in the UAE instead of the provisions of this Decree-Law.

Civil Marriage

The new law now acknowledges civil marriage contracts, provided that they meet a set of conditions. These conditions include that both spouses are at least 21 and that each of them expressly declares their consent to marriage before the certification judge and signs the Disclosure Form.

Unilateral Divorce

The new Decree-Law allows for unilateral divorce which may be requested and granted if either spouse expresses in court his/her desire to separate and terminate the marriage, without any need to justify their reason, to demonstrate harm, or to put the blame on the other party.

Divorce Alimony

Alimony is now calculated and decided based on several factors including years of marriage, the age of the wife, the financial status of both spouses, and the extent of how much the husband is responsible for the divorce.

Joint Custody

Under the new law, parental responsibility for children shall be shared by both the father and mother after divorce, unless the parties submit a request to the court to establish custody for the party who is able to meet the interests of the child in custody, or either of them waives custody right in writing before the Court, or applies to the Court for removing the other spouse from joint custody and terminating his/her right of custody for any reason acceptable to the Court.

Distribution of Estate

The new law allows for the legator to leave a will with all his/her assets in the State to anyone of his/her choice according to the controls set out by the Executive Regulations. In the absence of a will of the deceased at the time of death, half of the estate will go to the spouse, and the other half equally distributed among children, without difference between males and females. In the absence of children, the half remaining will go to either living parents or siblings.

The cabinet shall issue the Executive Regulations of this Decree-Law and a dedicated family court for non-Muslims will be opened to hear all cases related to marriage, custody, divorce, paternity, inheritance, and personal status.


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