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New UAE Personal Status Law Takes Effect: What You Need to Know

New UAE Personal Status Law Takes Effect: What You Need to Know

On February 1, 2023, the UAE Personal Status Law (Federal Law No. 41 of 2022) took effect, bringing significant changes to the legal landscape of the country. Here are the key takeaways from the new law:

Recognition of Civil Marriage

For the first time, civil marriage is recognized in the UAE. The new law allows foreign nationals to enter into a civil marriage, provided they meet certain criteria:

  • The spouses must be at least 21 years old.
  • Both parties must express explicit consent to the marriage before the authentication judge.
  • The spouses may agree on the conditions of the contract and the rights of the husband and wife during the marriage and post-divorce.
  • The marriage must be legalized by the authentication judge and entered into the official register.

Eased Divorce Procedures

The new law eases the divorce process by eliminating the mandatory appeal to the family guidance committee under the prior law. It also provides spouses seeking separation with more flexibility and legal protection:

  • Either spouse can express the wish to separate before the court without having to justify the request or blame the other party.
  • A divorce can take place through a court judgment at the first hearing.
  • If a divorced woman wants to apply for alimony from her ex-husband, she needs to use a separate application to the court.
  • The alimony depends on various factors, such as the number of years of marriage, financial status of each spouse, and extent of the husband’s contribution to the divorce.

Child Custody

The new law establishes the concept of joint custody as the general principle after a divorce, aiming to preserve the psychological health of the child and limit the effects of divorce on children:

  • The father and mother share the responsibility of raising the children after divorce unless the two parties submit an application to the court to grant custody to whoever is capable of achieving the interests of the child in custody.
  • Either spouse may seek to waive their right to custody in writing before the court.
  • The spouses may petition the court to exclude the other party from joint custody for a reason acceptable to the court.
  • If the father and mother disagree on any matter related to joint custody, either one of them can submit an application to the court to resolve the matter in dispute.


The new law allows any decedent to determine their heirs, provided that they draft a will that is effective, does not contradict the provisions of the Executive Regulations, and is in accordance with the testator’s intentions. If there is no effective will, intestate succession takes effect.


If you are about to enter into a prenuptial agreement, are in an unpleasant divorce situation, have to deal with a custody dispute, or need help in drawing up your will, it is essential to consult an expert in this matter. The new UAE Personal Status Law brings significant changes that may impact your legal rights and obligations.

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