Dubai: Non-Muslims in the UAE now have the option to get married in a civil ceremony after Abu Dhabi opened its new non-Muslim Personal Status Court last year. The dedicated family court for non-Muslims in Abu Dhabi oversees personal status matters, such as marriage, divorce, inheritance and child custody under Law No. 14 of 2021 on non-Muslims Personal Status in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, which was issued in November 2021.
While earlier non-Muslims could get married in a religious ceremony, the new law allows a non-Muslim man and woman to solemnise a marriage as a civil contract, without a religious ceremony.
Abu Dhabi’s non-Muslim family court – which is a bilingual court, conducting proceedings in Arabic and English – issued its first civil marriage contract to a Canadian couple on December 27, 2021, and since then, many expats and tourists have tied the knot at the court. If you are a non-Muslim couple planning to get married at the court, here is all you need to know about the procedures for civil marriage in Abu Dhabi.
What is the civil marriage law?
As per Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD)’s website – www.adjd.gov.ae – “A civil marriage is the lawful union of a non-Muslim man and woman and it is solemnised as a civil contract, without a religious ceremony.”
The civil marriage contract is regulated by Articles 4 and 5 of Law No. 14 of 2021, which was issued by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Gulf News spoke with legal experts, who explained in detail what the big changes in the new non-Muslim family law are and the legal process for filing a civil marriage application.
“The move (Law No. 14 of 2021) enables non-Muslim expats to follow the rules of their home countries when it comes to their union or parting. To enter into marriage, a couple no longer require a religious ceremony, a guardian’s [approval] or medical test. A notary public or judge approves the marriage application and issues a digital certificate. The law also enables couples to register a marriage contract (prenuptial agreement), should they wish to,” Dipali Maldonado, Senior Consultant at the law firm Al Tamimi and Company, told Gulf News.
To enter into marriage, a couple no longer require a religious ceremony, a guardian’s [approval] or medical test.
Who is defined as a non-Muslim before the family law court?
As per ADJD’s official website – adjd.gove.ae , a person is deemed non-Muslim if:
“If he or she is a citizen of a country that is not a member of The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation unless he/she affirms otherwise.
“For applicants holding the citizenship of a country that is a member of the Arab League countries - an official document showing the religion of the person might be required, unless the parties affirm their wills to be married under the civil marriage rules.”
How to apply for a civil marriage contract
Tourists and expats in the UAE can file the civil marriage contract application entirely online on www.adjd.gov.ae.
The process for the civil marriage can be done in a few simple steps. Abdullah Ishnaneh, a Partner at the law firm BSA Ahmad Bin Hezeem and Associates LLP, explained the legal process for the civil marriage application and certificate.
“The process of a civil marriage has been simplified – any couple of sound legal and mental capacity – can electronically submit an English-Arabic bilingual template for executing and registering their civil marriage. Relevant documents must be attached to the application such as passport copy, residency visa, Emirates ID and other official documents stating the religion of the parties, acknowledgment of the non-existence of an ongoing marriage, amongst other matters. The court fees can be also settled electronically,” Ishnaneh said.
“Following the submission, the court will examine the documents to make sure that the conditions are met. If the application is approved, the court will contact the concerned couple within three working days in order to schedule an appointment for the issuance and delivery of the marriage certificate to the couple. The couple can attend the meeting virtually or physically in court.”
Relevant documents must be attached to the application such as passport copy, residency visa, Emirates ID and other official documents stating the religion of the parties, acknowledgment of the non-existence of an ongoing marriage, amongst other matters
For a marriage application to be approved, the following documents must be submitted:
• A complete and signed marriage application form.
• Copy of Passport or Emirates ID.
• If previously married, proof that the marriage has been dissolved:
i. In the case of death of a spouse, a copy of the death certificate must be provided.
ii. If divorced, a copy of the divorce certificate.
iii. If a previous marriage was declared null, a copy of the court order.
• Marriage agreement (optional).
Steps to follow
1. Download the application form here: https://www.adjd.gov.ae/AR/Documents/Courts%20Form/1_Marriage_Application%20M1.pdf
2. Fill in the form with both the husband’s and wife’s personal details:
- Date of Birth
- Passport number
- Email address
- Phone number
- Choose the current marital status of both husband and wife: single, divorced or widowed.
3. Upload the supporting documents, which are:
- Copy of Passport
- Emirates ID (if a resident of the UAE)
- Emirates ID (if a resident of the UAE)
- Copy of death certificate, if widowed
4. After filling out the application and attaching required documents, submit your application in the Interactive Case Registration service (ICR): https://www.adjd.gov.ae/sites/eServices/EN/Pages/icr.aspx
5. Select – ‘Non-Muslim Personal Status Applications’ - in the Interactive Case Registration service, then select the type of application – ‘Civil Marriage.’
6. Once it is approved, the non-Muslim family court will contact you to arrange an appointment date.
7. On the arranged date, the couple will be present online through a video conference or in person to sign the certificate before the judge.
8. When the requirements are met, the couple will receive a digital marriage certificate.
How long does the application process take?
If the application is approved, the marriage certificate will be issued within five working days.
Cost of the civil marriage certificate
Civil marriage application form - Dh500.
If you wish to obtain a copy of the certificate, you will need to pay Dh100.