Abu Dhabi opens family court for non-Muslims

The bilingual court will hear cases related to marriage, divorce, inheritance and paternity

A non-Muslim family court has opened in Abu Dhabi. Photo: Abu Dhabi Judicial Department
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A dedicated family court for non-Muslims has opened in Abu Dhabi as part of efforts to advance the judicial system and help attract global talent to the capital.

The court will hear all cases related to marriage, custody, divorce, paternity, inheritance and personal status.

Sessions will be held in Arabic and English to ensure foreigners understand them and to improve judicial transparency.

“The establishment of the first specialised court for non-Muslim family matters is part of the continuous efforts being made to further develop the judicial system of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi,” said Youssef Saeed Al Abri, undersecretary of Abu Dhabi Judicial Department.

The court is part of new legislation introduced last month to better support expatriates in the emirate.

The new family law, issued by President Sheikh Khalifa, includes equal legal rights for men and women, joint custody and the expediting of divorce procedures.

Modernising the legal system

The move is designed to bring Abu Dhabi in line with international practices and enhance its position as a destination for global talent.

Under the new law, spouses have the right to divorce without needing to prove harm was done in the marriage.

Joint and equal custody of children will automatically be granted to parents after divorce, with procedures in place to settle disputes.

Changes to inheritance laws for non-Muslims in Abu Dhabi mean that, should a person die without a will, half of their estate will automatically go to their spouse, with the other half going to their children.

The presiding judge will also have the power to settle divorce disputes and can also officiate in civil marriages.

“The personal status law for non-Muslims, which is applied by the court, is the first of its kind in the world to apply civil principles in the regulation of family matters, as it addresses the smallest details regarding non-Muslim family issues, and provides a modern judicial umbrella for foreigners to resolve disputes in a flexible manner in accordance with international best practices,” Mr Al Abri said.

The law contains 20 articles divided into several chapters covering civil marriage, divorce, joint custody of children and inheritance.

ADJD said the aim of the law was to "provide a flexible and elaborate judicial mechanism to settle family disputes for non-Muslims, so as to enhance the emirate's position and global competitiveness as one of the most attractive destinations for expertise and skills”.

Updated: December 14, 2021, 7:21 PM