Dubai: Non-muslims in the UAE can now file for a ‘no-fault’ divorce in Abu Dhabi’s new non-Muslim Personal Status Court, which was opened last year. The specialised family court for non-Muslims has jurisdiction over 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.
A ‘no-fault’ divorce, is the annulment of a marriage, which does not require a showing of wrongdoing by either party. Previously divorce would only be granted if one party was at fault.
The divorce granted by the non-Muslim family court is internationally recognised and the proceedings are done in Arabic and English. Here are the detailed rules and procedures.
What is a no-fault divorce?
As per Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD)’s website – www.adjd.gov.ae: “No- fault divorce is a divorce in which neither party is required to blame the other for the breakdown of the marriage. The family court will therefore grant a divorce in response to the no-fault divorce application without requiring evidence of the reasons behind the marriage breakdown.”
The civil marriage contract is regulated by Articles 6 and 7 of Law No. 14 of 2021, which was issued by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Providing more details on what a 'no-fault' divorce is, Dipali Maldonado, Senior Consultant at the law firm Al Tamimi and Company, said: “Couples seeking a divorce can opt for a no-fault divorce, meaning they do not need to establish harm. Joint custody of children and enhanced alimony have been introduced and the divorce process has been simplified – it is no longer necessary to go before the Family Guidance Committee as a first step, the divorce can be granted at the first hearing thereby reducing time and expense.”
A couple that wishes to separate does not have provide a reason and does not have to go through a mediation stage, either, as per the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD).
It is no longer necessary to go before the Family Guidance Committee as a first step, the divorce can be granted at the first hearing thereby reducing time and expense.
Who can apply for divorce?
According to the department’s website – www.adjd.gov.ae – either the husband or wife can apply for a 'non-fault' divorce. But the person filing the application must be an Abu Dhabi resident or the marriage certificate must have been issued in Abu Dhabi.
To file for divorce, the applicant must complete and submit the ‘No-Fault Divorce Application’ form through the Interactive Case Registration (ICR) service. Applicants can download the application form here: https://www.adjd.gov.ae/AR/Documents/Courts%20Form/2_Divorce_Form.pdf
Bassel Boutros , an associate at BSA Ahmad Bin Hezeem and Associates LLP, explained the legal procedures for divorce in the non-Muslim court.
“The party applying for divorce will have to complete the English-Arabic Bilingual template with the required documents attached to it and settle the court fees. The court will decide if the petition meets all the requirements, especially in relation to the court jurisdiction to rule on the matter,” Boutros said.
“In the event the petition is approved, the court will schedule a hearing for the issuance of the divorce order after a period of at least 30 days from the date on which the petition was approved. The parties will be notified of the hearing date. The defendant will have the right to challenge the court jurisdiction by submitting a memo 10 days before the hearing. On the day of the hearing, the judge will issue his ruling.”
In the event the petition is approved, the court will schedule a hearing for the issuance of the divorce order after a period of at least 30 days from the date on which the petition was approved.
What are the required documents?
The documents required to support the 'no-fault' divorce application:
- Copy of the marriage certificate
- Copy of ID (passport, Emirates ID and residency visa)
- Employment contract
- Last six months’ bank statements (for all accounts)
How does alimony or financial claims after the divorce work under the new law?
The ADJD website states that if neither spouse can reach an amicable financial settlement upon divorce, they can apply for a financial order using the post-divorce application for a financial order by downloading the application form here: https://www.adjd.gov.ae/AR/Documents/Courts%20Form/4_Post_Divorce.pdf