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The Abu Dhabi Personal Status Law for Non-Muslims

Enactment of the Abu Dhabi Personal Status Law
for Non-Muslims and its court establishment

In line with the several efforts invested by the UAE Federal and Local Governments aiming at ensuring further stability to the considerable foreign population residing and working in the various Emirates of the UAE, Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE and the largest of the seven Emirates, has announced on December 14th, 2021, the inauguration of the non-Muslim Personal Status Court, which is implemented under the umbrella of the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department.

Accordingly, the establishment of the non-Muslim Personal Status Court comes as part of the executive procedures introduced under Law No. 14 of 2021, promulgated on November 7th, 2021, by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, in his capacity as Ruler of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, which regulates the personal status matters related to non-Muslim foreigners.  

That being said, it is noteworthy to highlight that these new legal initiatives and measures are in conformity with Abu Dhabi’s aims to promote its position and global competitiveness as one of the most attractive destinations for foreign workforce and talents, and consequently ensuring a flexible and developed judicial mechanism for the determination of personal status disputes for non-Muslim foreigners having their place of residence or work in Abu Dhabi.

Taking into consideration that non-Muslim foreigners will still have the opportunity to request for the application of their respective home countries’ relevant legislation, the aforementioned Law No. 14 of 2021 provides that in the absence of such request, the non-Muslim Personal Status Court shall apply the provisions of Law No. 14 of 2021 with respect to matters related to marriage, divorce, estate, wills, affiliation, inheritance and custody of children.

The significance of such new law relies on the fact that it introduces new concepts in the UAE civil law framework, such as civil marriage which, although does apply only to non-Muslim foreigners in Abu Dhabi, is a new matter under the family law regime in both the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and the UAE.  

In light of the above, it is noteworthy to mention that over the past years Abu Dhabi has implemented several measures to further develop its judicial system with the aim of adapting to all the changes generated by the economic and commercial developments, and therefore, providing a modern judicial umbrella for foreigners in accordance with international best practices. In fact, in 2018, the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department had established the Non-Muslim Wills Registration office, a year after the implementation of a similar measure in the Emirate of Dubai under Law No. 15 of 2017 concerning the Administration of Estates and Implementation of Wills of Non-Muslims in the Emirate of Dubai.

Conclusion

In conclusion to the above and in light of the major recent updates in the local administrative, commercial and procedural legislations in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, we may expect further developments to take place in the near future in order to further enhance the Emirate’s position as an attractive judicial and commercial hub for foreign investors.   

Please contact me if you want to know more:

Omar Kayal
Associate, Abu Dhabi
T +971 55 414 7010
E omar.kayal@galadarilaw.com