Updates announced to the UAE Family Law for Non-Muslim Expatriates

A series of new UAE family laws announced in December 2022 came into effect in February this year, covering changes to UAE family laws such as marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance for non-Muslim expats. The new UAE family law also regulates procedures for inheritance, wills and proof of paternity.

“It organises the procedures for settling the financial claims after divorce, and the arrangement of joint custody for the children,” the UAE Government Media Office said in a statement.

So what exactly does the new UAE Family law cover?

Introduction of “No Fault” Divorce

The introduction of this “no fault’ divorce enables a divorce to be granted based on the will of a spouse to end the marriage and doesn’t need justification or proof of wrongdoing from either party. The divorce will now take place in the first session upon registration of the lawsuit before the court, without the need to refer the case to the family guidance department.


Post-divorce, a wife can submit a court request claiming alimony from her former husband. If an agreement is not reached on the conditions or controls of such alimony or any other financial support in the marriage contract, the support and its duration shall be determined based upon the assessment of multiple factors including years of marriage, age of the wife, economic status, financial damage and more.

The Introduction of Joint Custody

Parents will receive joint and equal custody of their children following a divorce, and a dispute resolution process will be implemented. If a custody disagreement arises, the court can be called upon to make a determination based on the child’s best interests, which will always be the primary consideration.

Prior to this, mothers were only granted custody of their sons until they turned 11 and their daughters until they turned 13, at which point the father could seek custody.


A new law has been implemented if expat Non Muslims were to pass away intestate. In the event that a person dies without a will, their surviving spouse will receive half of their estate, while the other half will be distributed equally among their children. Previously the case was handled by a Sharia-based domestic court system and a son would receive a greater portion of the inheritance and parents would be included in the inheritance.


Proof of Paternity

The recent UAE Family Law stipulates that paternity for non-Muslims will be based on either marriage or the recognition of paternity. If the parents’ identity is unknown, DNA tests will be conducted to establish paternity.

Earlier this year, new regulations were implemented to enable unmarried mothers to obtain birth certificates for their babies. Previously, legal registration of the child required the presence or confirmation of a husband.

If you would like further information on how the new UAE Family Law may affect your portfolio and succession planning, please get in touch.

Note: Whilst we have endeavoured to ensure that the above information is correct, this should not be construed as legal advice.