The UAE introduces changes in personal and family law


In line with the UAE’s ongoing endeavors to develop its legislative foundations and its status as a global destination for foreign investment and expertise, President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has issued a number of presidential decrees amending some articles in the Personal Status and Family Law, updating divorce and inheritance rules.


Until now, family members of a deceased person, particularly in acrimonious cases, could have found assets were divided under Islamic law, which residents may be unused to, and can be an unequal division for men and women.

Previously, only a non-Muslim expatriate could petition the court for their country's laws to be applied when managing their assets on their death, while a Muslim resident of the UAE would automatically have Sharia applied. If a non-Muslim expatriate had not petitioned for their home country's laws to be applied to their will on their death, then the UAE's courts would automatically apply Sharia.

The new changes stipulate that the inheritance would be dealt with as per the nationality of the deceased person at the time of his death. Now, a person's citizenship will dictate how their assets are divided among their next of kin. An individual's inheritance will be divided according to their citizenship at the time of death, irrespective of religion. If a will is drafted, it would be followed. If an individual did not draft a will before their death, the law of the country of citizenship would apply.

The one exception is for property bought in the UAE, which will be managed according to Sharia if a will was not submitted.


Until now, non-Muslim expatriates who divorced in the UAE could choose either to have Sharia applied or request to have the laws of their home country applied instead. If the couple had different passports, then the citizenship of the husband would apply. And if the law of the individual's home country failed to cover an aspect of the divorce procedure, then the courts could apply UAE law instead.

Now, the personal status law of the country where the marriage took place will be applied.

The new law also mentions joint assets and accounts and says the court could be called on to meditate if there is no agreement between the two parties.

Source: The National