UAE Family Matters Q&A: Laws that govern family-related affairs

If you have a question for Mr Elhais, email with the subject line ‘Family Matters’.

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What are the laws governing family matters?

They are:

• Federal Law 11 of 1992, which concerns matters of civil procedure.

• The Law of Civil Transactions 5 of 1985.

• Federal Law 28 of 2005, which concerns personal status matters. The personal status law was developed from traditional Sharia, and takes into account the changing needs of modern society.

The following articles relate to matters of family law:

Article 13: The law of the state in which the husband is a national at the time the marriage is contracted, shall apply to personal status and the division of property, resulting from the contracting of the marriage.

Article 16: Substantive matters relating to guardianship, trusteeship, and maintenance or other systems, laid down for the protection of persons having no competence, are governed by the law of the person requiring to be protected.

Article 18: Possession, ownership and rights over property.

What are the main jurisdictional requirements for the institution of proceedings in relation to divorce, property and children?

There are several exceptions, but in general, the Courts of First Instance (the lowest tier of court) have jurisdiction in family cases filed against citizens or foreigners who are domiciled or resident in the UAE (following article 5 of personal status law and article 20 of the civil procedure law). In addition, a citizen or foreigner may commence a divorce in the UAE even if their spouse resides abroad, as long as the exact location is unknown.

Explain the concepts of domicile and habitual residence in relation to cases involving divorce, finances and children.

Domicile is defined as a place where an individual resides and sees their long-term home to be. Residence can be more temporary than domicile. In practice, a party would be seen to be domiciled or resident in the UAE for jurisdiction purposes, if they hold a residence visa (or similar) for the UAE.

If you have a question for Mr Elhais, email with the subject line ‘Family Matters’.