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Implications and Amendments in Personal Status Law: Marriage and Divorce Applications for Non-Muslims

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has recently made significant implications and amendments in its personal status law, particularly regarding marriage and divorce applications for non-Muslims. These changes aim to provide a more inclusive and comprehensive legal framework for the diverse population residing in the UAE. These changes aim to uphold personal rights, streamline processes, and cater to the specific needs of non-Muslim residents while maintaining the principles of justice and fairness. In order to realize the aforementioned aim, the Federal Decree-Law No. 29 of 2020 amended certain provisions of the Federal Law No. 28 of 2005 concerning Personal Status. This law governs personal affairs such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and more. Additionally, the Federal Decree-Law No. 41 of 2022 provides non-Muslim residents with the option to follow the laws of their home country or select alternative personal status laws in effect in the UAE.

Non-Muslim expatriate residents in the UAE now have options for divorce proceedings. They can either file for divorce in their home country, where they hold domicile, or they can apply for divorce within the UAE. If the parties wish to have the law of their home country applied to their divorce case, they can petition the court accordingly. The Federal Law No 28 of 2005 for Personal Affairs, as amended, states that the provisions of this law apply to citizens of the UAE unless non-Muslims among them have special provisions applicable to their community or confession. These provisions also apply to non-citizens, unless one of the parties requests the application of their own law.

Financial assistance post-divorce, including alimony, is determined based on various factors such as the age of the wife, years of marriage, and the economic status of each spouse. The court-appointed financial expert assesses the claim of maintenance, taking into account the husband’s assets and other relevant factors. Furthermore, Joint custody of children is preferred until the age of 16, with the child’s best interests considered. Children aged 12 or more have the right to choose their custody arrangement. The law addresses factors such as custodial violence, harmful environments, and special medical care needs. Wills can also be registered when signing a marriage contract, allowing non-Muslim spouses to designate the division of their assets upon death. In the absence of a will, the law outlines inheritance distribution.

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