What Abu Dhabi’s New Law For Non-Muslims Says About Marriage, Divorce, Child Custody?

The law on Personal Status for Non-Muslim Foreigners in Emirate of Abu Dhabi has been introduced by the Ruler of Abu Dhabi, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan recently. The law was devised specifically for the foreign nationals staying in Abu Dhabi to enjoy upgraded judicial mechanisms for the purpose of their personal status disputes. 

With the availability of flexible laws, foreign nationals should find the country convenient to live in. It is the first civil law introduced in the Emirate for the resolution of family matters of foreign nationals with respect to their personal laws, which widens the scope for international practices. The law guarantees the rights of the foreign national as specified by his personal laws, that is recognized globally. The law intends to protect the interests of the child of the foreign national in case of divorce or separation of parents and helps to ease the divorce procedures. It also helps to maintain the relationship between parents and the child after divorce. 

The law will govern all the matters relating to marriage, divorce, estate, and affiliation in the case of a foreign national unless the foreign national wishes to be governed as per the provisions specified in the laws in his home country. 

Under article 9 of the act, joint custody of the child after divorce is laid out clearly. It says that both the parents will have joint and equal rights in the case of children. It also defines the right of the child with no parent getting exclusive right of authority over the child. This is aimed at improving the mental health of the children and preventing them from the harshness of the divorce. 

The rule states that the responsibility of children must be shared by both the parents after divorce except in the case where the right is waved by any of them or application is made to the court by any of them to remove the other spouse from the joint custody, resulting in termination of joint custody by the rule of court, which includes the impediments to legal competence, the risk of a spouse being involved in custody or the failure of the custodial parent to perform their duties. If any differences arise between the parents in the matter of the joint custody they may approach the court by applying the concerned form and ask for the court’s intervention in settling such differences. Under article 10 of the act, the court has the power to decide for the child’s custody after evaluating the facts. 

Under article 11 of the act, the distribution of the estate of the foreigner in the Emirate has been described. It says that the foreigner can make a will and leave all his assets to any person in the UAE as he wishes. In case the spouse is dead, half of the property should go to the other spouse, and another half shall be distributed among the children equally. If the dead spouse has no children then all the property should be divided among the individual’s parents equally, in case of the absence of one parent, half of it should go to the parent and half should go to the dead spouse’s siblings. 

In case of the absence of both the parents, the amount should be distributed among the siblings equally (to male and female). Notwithstanding the above-said factors, any heir of the foreigner can make an application to the courts in this case unless there is a registered will to the contrary. 

Under article 13 of the act, provisions of registration of wills for foreigners are described. A foreigner must register his will in a special register as guided by the department and under the guidance of the Chairman. Both the parties to the marriage can fill the non-muslim will registration form during the conclusion of the marriage contract to describe the distribution of the assets in case any one of them dies. 

Under section 14 of the act, Proof of Affiliation of the child is described. It says that the affiliation of the child should be established by the contract of marriage or by the recognition of parents. The birth certificate of the child must be provided by the decision of the Chairman along with conditions and procedures. 

The act also describes a few general provisions:  

  • Article 15: Exclusion of Non-Muslim Personal Status Matters from Presentation before Family Guidance  
  • Article 16: Equality of Men and Women in Rights and Obligations (in terms of testimony, estate, right to divorce, and joint custody) 
  • Article 17: Court dedicated to the Non-Muslim Personal Status Matters 
  • Article 18: It says that any matter not provided for herein shall be governed by laws and legislation in force in the UAE and the Emirates 
  • Article 19: Issuance of Implementing Regulations and Resolutions 
  • Article 20: Entry into Force 

Connect with NRI experts via WhatsApp | Click here