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2023 new UAE Law Changes in Civil Marriage, Divorce, and Child Custody

As of February 1, 2023, the UAE (United Arab Emirates) will be implementing reforms to the Federal Personal Status Law, affecting the legal system for non-Muslim expatriates regarding marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance.

The goal of these changes is to modernize the UAE legal system and offer convenience to expats. Read on to find out everything you need to know about these new reforms.

Civil Marriage Reforms

One of the most significant changes that the new reforms bring is related to marriage. The new law states:

regulates the marriage conditions and the procedures of contracting and documenting the marriage before the competent courts,” says WAM, the state news agency.

This will allow non-Muslim couples to marry in a non-Sharia legal process.

Couples wishing to tie the knot must be at least 21 years old and will be required to fill out a

declaration form in front of a judge. This requirement has been in effect in Abu Dhabi since February 2022, but will now be implemented across the entire country.

The new law provides a modern and streamlined process for non-Muslim couples to get married and marks a significant change in the legal landscape of the UAE. It represents a progressive and inclusive step for the UAE and will make it easier for non-Muslim couples to formalize their relationship and start a family.

Divorce Reforms

Under the new decree, either spouse can initiate a divorce, without having to prove fault or justify the need for it, according to the National News. Divorces may be granted after a single hearing, without the need for family guidance counselling or mediation sessions.

If the divorcing couple has children, joint and equal custody will be granted until the children are 18 years old. In the event of custody disputes, the court can take further action while considering the best interests of the child or children.

Financial alimony will be determined based on factors such as the length of the marriage, the wife’s age, and the financial status of both partners, with a woman’s testimony having equal value to that of the man.

Inheritance Reforms

Non-Muslims can now register their wills at the same time as their marriage certificates, allowing them to dictate who will receive their property. In the absence of a will, 50 percent of the deceased’s estate will go to the spouse, while the other half will be equally distributed among any children. If there are no children, 50 percent will go to surviving parents or siblings.

Continued Modernization Efforts

This recent federal decree is part of the UAE’s ongoing efforts to modernize its legal system. In October 2022, law No10 of 2022 granted birth certificates to children born outside marriage.

In January 2022, reforms decriminalized relationships and pregnancies outside of marriage, as well as allowed unmarried couples to live together.


The reforms to the UAE’s family law are significant steps towards modernizing the country’s legal system and providing greater protection and support for non-Muslim expatriates. The changes to marriage, divorce, and inheritance laws aim to simplify the process and ensure fairness for all parties involved.

These efforts demonstrate the UAE’s commitment to providing a more inclusive and progressive society for its citizens and residents.

If you want to get married in the UAE and want to know more about the process, do not hesitate to contact us.

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