Civil Family Law Updates for Non-Muslims – What you need to know
The UAE announced the Federal Decree-Law No. (41) of 2022 concerning “Civil Personal Status” in the UAE which will come into effect on February 1, 2023.
The decree-law provides a flexible and developed judicial mechanism for settling personal status disputes of non-Muslims. It enhances the status and competitiveness of the UAE in regulating family matters of non-Muslims, according to international practices.
As part of its objectives, it also seeks to ensure that non-Muslims are subject to international law which is consistent with their culture, language, and customs, as well as achieving and protecting the best interests of their children.
Unless any of them (the foreigners) adhere to the application of their national law concerning personal status matters, the decree-law will be applied to non-Muslims of UAE citizens and foreigners residing in the UAE.
A decree-law also provides those targeted under its provisions with an opportunity to agree on the application of other laws and regulations pertaining to family and personal status in the UAE.
The man and woman under this decree-law shall enjoy equality in rights and obligations, particularly in matters relating to testimony, inheritance, right to effectuate divorce, and joint child custody.
Civil marriage contracts are acknowledged by this decree-law, subject to the non-Muslims spouses meeting certain requirements, such as being at least 21 years old and giving their explicit consent to the marriage before the authentication judge. Unlike Islamic Marriage, no authorization is required from the wife’s guardian to contract civil marriage under this decree-law.
The spouses must also sign a declaration form and meet any other conditions prescribed in the Executive Regulations of this decree-law. Moreover, the decree-law sets out the procedures for concluding and authenticating the civil marriage before the authenticating judge.
Under this decree-law, in order to effectuate divorce, it is sufficient that one of the spouses declares before the court his/her willingness for separation and to end the marital relationship without the need to justify his/her request or to demonstrate any damage or to blame the other spouse.
The divorce will be granted to the requesting spouse after notifying the other spouse without the need to refer the matter to the Family Guidance Department.
Upon issuance of the divorce judgment under this decree-law, the wife may submit an application to the court requesting alimony from her former husband.
If the marriage contract does not set out the conditions of alimony and other financial support, the judge, at his discretion, will decide on the application taking into consideration some factors, including: (a) the years of the marriage,
(b) the age of the wife,
(c) the economic status of the spouses,
(d) the extent to which the husband contributes to the divorce,
(e) the financial damages that affect any spouse due to the unilateral divorce, and
(f) whether or not the wife takes care of the children.
In all cases, the alimony shall no longer be paid to the former wife if she marries another man.
Custody of Children:
In order to maintain the mental health of the child and to limit the repercussions of divorce under this decree-law, both parents, upon divorce, will share joint and equal custody of children until they are 18 years old, as it is the right of the children to be raised and seen by both parents rather than by one of them exclusively.
Nevertheless, both spouses may apply to the court to grant custody to the spouse worthy of fulfilling the interests of the fostered child. It is also possible for any of the spouses to renounce their custody rights by a written declaration before the court.
Moreover, any spouse may submit to the court to eliminate the other spouse from joint custody for any reason accepted by the court, such as the legal capacity or the risk of sharing custody with such a spouse or in case such custodian does not assume his duties.
In all cases, in resolving disputes between the father and the mother regarding any matter of joint custody, the court shall have discretionary power to take the decision deemed necessary for the interest of the fostered child.
Inheritance and Wills:
According to this decree-law, the testator has a right to leave a Will and bequeath all his assets in the UAE to whoever he deems adequate, within limits specified by the Executive Regulations of the decree-law.
In case of the absence of a written Will, the living spouse shall acquire half of the inheritance, and the other half shall be equally divided among the children irrespective of gender. The decree-law also set out the rules for other cases where the testator has no children.
Furthermore, the decree-law provides for the registration of Non-Muslims Wills in accordance with the procedures set forth by the Executive Regulations of the decree-law.
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