Divorce Of Non-Muslims in UAE

Divorce in today’s modern world has become very common for various reasons like, lack of compatibility, poor communication and some could be for even more grave reasons like infidelity or impotency. At the end of day, it’s an understanding between the couple to move on for better, that’s why even the laws around the world dealing with family matters have a provision of mutual or amicable settlements. The population of the United Arab Emirates consists of 80 percent of expatriates and if you’re a non-Muslim, living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and are wondering on the legal aspects of divorce, then, take time to read this article to find answers for all of your basic queries. The UAE’s legal structure has been established in line with the civil law principles and Islamic Sharia law. It is also pertinent to know that the principles and rules of Islamic Sharia law holds the utmost importance in determining several legal aspects under the UAE’s legislation and also it is acknowledged as the primary source of the UAE laws. 


Federal Law number 28 of 2005 on Personal Status is the governing legislation, which is highly based on the Sharia Principles, deals with all the aspects of the family law such as marriage, divorce, finances, children and inheritance matters. As per Article 1 of the Personal Status law, the scope of the application of the law is not limited only to UAE nationals (Emiratis), but is also extended to all the Muslim and non-Muslim expatriates residing in UAE and also provides that it is applicable to the non-Muslim UAE nationals, unless they have special regulations relating to their sect and religion. So, this provision of the Personal Status law clears the availability of the option to proceed for a divorce case in UAE courts for non-Muslim residents of UAE. The other relevant laws governing the family matters also include: Federal Law number 11 of 1992 (Civil Procedure Code) and Federal Law number 5 of 1985 (Civil Transaction Code). 


Non-Muslim UAE residents can file for divorce in either of the following manner:


The residents of UAE will only be eligible to apply for divorce in the UAE courts if they had been residents of the UAE for at least a period of six months before the filing of the divorce case. Where the parties have decided to proceed the case for divorce with the UAE courts but have opted to be governed by the law of their own country on family matters, need to be aware of these following aspects of the UAE’s law on personal status:


Process of filing of divorce in the UAE courts-


Grounds on which a divorce can be filed: 

As per Article 110 to 135 of the Personal Status law, the grounds on which a divorce can be initiated are as follows;


The above-mentioned list for grounds of divorce is not an exhaustive one. Some other reasons for divorce can include adultery, mental or physical abuse and desertion (where the husband leaves the marriage without the consent of the wife). In UAE, Muslim men can divorce their wife without any grounds for divorce and the above given reasons to file for a divorce are limited to women intending to initiate divorce. However, the non-Muslim men are required to file divorce on a specific ground. Some other common reasons for seeking divorce in this country are lack of proper communication, loss of job, religious or cultural differences, unrealistic expectations and so on. Children’s custody In UAE, the parents do not share equal responsibilities of the child. 

According to the Federal Law number 28 of 2005 on Personal Status, provides that the mother will take the role of a custodian and the father will take up the role of a guardian. Article 143 and 144 of the Personal Status law sets out on who can qualify to be a custodian as:

  1. Should be rational
  2. Should be mature enough to hold the position of a custodian and also should have attained the age of puberty
  3. Should be honest nature
  4. Should be capable of bringing up and taking care of the child
  5. Should not have any infectious disease
  6. Should be a person who is not sentenced for a crime of honor


If the custodian is the mother, she must not remarry unless the court thinks it’s in the best interest of the child and also should share the same religion as that of the child. In case, the custodian is the father, then he must have a suitable woman living in home to provide the required care for the child and also should share the same religion as that of the child. According to the Article 156 of the law on the Personal Status the child’s custody under the mother ends when their son reaches the age of 11 and when the daughter reaches the age of 13. The father being the guardian is entitled to claim for the custody of the child. Having said that, the mother is also entitled to claim the extension of the custody period until their son finishes his education and the daughter gets married, provided she can prove that she has been good with children with regards to the school performance reports, in providing good medical history and so on. 

Likewise, the father can also claim custody of their son, in the case where he is convinced that his son is becoming of soft nature by staying with the mother and wants him to grow up to be a more responsible man. The role of the custodian is to make sure to provide day-to-day required care necessary for the child. Whereas, the guardian, who is the father, holds the responsibility of providing the child financially, along with shelter, expenses for food, medical care, education and other necessities. Maintenance In UAE, there is no room for spousal maintenance after divorce. The only payments provided by the father are for the expenses of children’s education and living, which may include rent and salaries for help at home. The amount to be paid by the father for these expenses is determined based on the income and also these payments are only limited to thirty percent of his income. 

However, if the husband wishes to pay more, he can do so. When it comes to the maintenance of the wife, as already mentioned above, there is no provision for the spousal maintenance in the law on the personal status. However, as per Article 69 of law on the personal status, provides for support by the husband for a period of three months following the divorce. This period is called the idda months, where during this time the wife is not allowed to remarry due to the possibility of pregnancy. The woman is also entitled to claim compensation in the following circumstances:

  1. For the duration of time where the husband failed to provide her with maintenance (three months)
  2. For moral and psychological damages as a consequence of being divorced.


Division of assets and property: 

When it comes to the division of the assets and property, generally the parties retain the assets and property which they own. However, the court will divide the bank accounts and shares which are in joint names equally or in accordance to the percentages, provided there was no evidence to the contrary in line with general civil laws. For assets owned in a foreign country, the court where such assets are located applies the international private law to decide the law applicable to the distribution of these assets. 


Immigration Implications: 

Before the introduction of new visa rule for female divorcees’, getting a divorce would have surely led to the cancellation of the spousal visa, whereas this new visa rule lets the female divorcee and her children stay in the UAE for up to a year after her divorce and also, she can extend it for a total of two years. To avail this new visa rule, she must be able to establish housing, the ability to earn a living wage and provide medical certificates. Where the husband’s residency permit is sponsored by the wife, in case of divorce it will be canceled. He will then need to get a work visa or have to set up a company of his own to remain in the country. This article tends to answer the basic queries while pursuing the case of divorce in as per UAE laws.