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New Federal Personal Status Law in the UAE

The Federal Personal Status Law came into effect on February 1, 2023. The regulation of inheritance and family property relations in the UAE has its features, as it is largely based on Sharia law.

Previously, special regulation allowing non-Muslim foreigners to make a will or enter into a marriage contract was adopted only in some emirates, for example, in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and also partially in such free zones as DIFC and ADGM.

The new law introduces significant changes to the existing approach and will apply across the UAE for:

- non-Muslim citizens of the UAE,

- non-Muslim foreign nationals residing in the UAE.


Civil marriage. The law introduces the concept of civil(i.e. officially registered) marriage and establishes the conditions for its conclusion. Spouses will have the right to conclude a prenuptial agreement that regulates their rights and obligations during marriage and in the event of divorce, as well as issues of custody of children. It is subject to registration in a special register.

Divorce. The law establishes the equal rights of spouses to file for “no-fault” divorce, as well as the right to joint custody of children. In the event of a divorce, the spouse has the right to file for alimony, the amount of which depends on several conditions, for example, the number of years in marriage, the financial situation of the spouses, and the age of the spouse.

Inheritance. The law provides for the right to make a will in favor of any person. It must be registered in a special register. In the absence of a will, as a general rule, half of the inheritance will be inherited by the surviving spouse, and the second half will be distributed in equal shares among the children of the testator. If there are no children, then half of the property goes to the parents in equal shares. Recall that before this, the spouse and daughter could receive a much smaller part of the inheritance if there were male heirs.

Court. The provisions of the new law suggest that each emirate will establish a special competent court for non-Muslims in inheritance and family matters, as was done in early 2022 in Abu Dhabi. Such a court will be able to register marriages, certify marriage contracts and wills, and resolve disputes. The adoption of such a law is a positive factor, as it introduces universally recognized principles for regulating family and inheritance relations for non-Muslims throughout the UAE.

It is necessary to remember that any move, to the UAE or another country, can significantly affect the solution of personal issues. In many jurisdictions family property relations of spouses are determined by the law of the country in which the spouses live, and the order of inheritance is determined by the law of the country of the last place of residence of the deceased.

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