New UAE Personal Status Law takes effect


published on 15 February 2023 | reading time approx. 3 minutes

As of 1 February 2023, the Federal Law No. 41 of 2022 (UAE Personal Status Law) took effect. It is the first time, that civil marriage is recognized in the UAE. The New Law aims to provide the UAE’s non-Muslim expats with more legal equality and protection, unless any of them insists on the application of their country’s law. 


Civil marriage

Civil Marriages are a special type of marriage that is executed and acknowledged by the state, instead of religious institutions. They are therefore considered to be a secular alternative to church marriages and are typically preferred by non-religious couples or couples with different religions. The new law allows for foreign nationals to enter a civil marriage, if they meet certain criteria. 
The spouses must have attained at least twenty-one Gregorian years of age and explicitly express their consent to the marriage before the authentication judge. In addition to the mentioned requirements, the spouses may agree on the conditions of the contract and the rights of the husband and wife during the marriage period and the post-divorce rights. The procedure involves completing the form prepared therefore before the authen­ti­cation judge. 
If all conditions and procedures have been met, the same judge legalizes the marriage and the contract is entered into the official register prepared for this purpose.


The new law eased the process in case of a divorce by circumventing the mandatory appeal to the family guidance committee under prior law and provides spouses seeking separation with more flexibility. Expats are now provided with above mentioned greater legal protection and security when it comes to the division of assets in the event of a divorce.
Under the new law either spouse can express his/her wish to separate and not continue with the marital relationship before the court, without having to justify the request, indicate damage or blame the other party. A divorce takes place through a court judgement at the first hearing. If a divorced woman wants to apply for alimony from her ex-husband, she needs to use a separate application to the court. 
The acceptance of the application and its period are subject to the judge’s discretion. The alimony depends on various factors such as the number of years of marriage, the wife’s age, the financial status of each of the spouses, the extent of the husband’s contribution to the divorce, either spouse compensating the other for any material or moral damage caused to him/her as a result of the divorce, the final damage incurred by either spouse as a result of the application for divorce by unilateral will and whether or not the wife is diligent in taking care of the children. 
In addition to the requirements mentioned, the father shall bear the expenses and cost of the mother’s custody of the children during joint custody for a temporary period not exceeding two years. The wife’s alimony is forfeited in the event of her marriage to another man and in the event that her custody of the children ends for any reason. A new application may be submitted to amend the alimony after each year according to any change of the relevant circumstances.  

Child custody

The new law also amended the child custody. Aiming to preserve the psychological health of the child and limiting the effects of divorce on the children, the new law establishes the concept of joint custody as the general principle after a divorce. 
The principle of child custody is that the father and the mother share together the responsibility of raising the children after divorce, unless the two parties submit an application to the court to grant custody to whoever is capable of achieving the interests of the child in custody or either of them seeks to waive his/her right to custody in writing before the court. In addition, the spouses may petition the court to exclude the other party from joint custody and to deprive him or her of custody for a reason acceptable to the court.
In the event that the father and mother disagree on any matter related to joint custody, either one of them can submit an application to the court, according to the form prepared therefore, to object or request intervention of the court to resolve the matter in dispute. The court has the discretion to decide what it deems appropriate in the interest of the child in custody.


The new law empowers any decedent to determine whomever he/she designates to inherit him. To assure that a will is effective, does not contradict the provisions of the Executive Regulations and is drafted in accordance with the testator's intentions, it is essential to consult an expert in this matter. If there is no (effective) will, intestate succession takes effect. This would result in the testator no longer having any influence on the succession. 
If you are about to enter into a prenuptial agreement, are in an unpleasant divorce situation, have to deal with a custody dispute or need help in drawing up your will, we will be happy to assist you.
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