Stock Abu Dhabi skyline
This new law marks a bold chapter in the legal and judicial development of Abu Dhabi and the UAE as a whole Image Credit: WAM

Since the day it was founded almost 50 years ago, the UAE has always striven to make the country as welcoming and equitable for people from all corners of the globe, both Muslim and non-Muslim alike.

The Leaders and Government have always sought balance and transparency, creating a tolerant social framework for all who call the UAE home. Now, by introducing a new family law for non-Muslims, Abu Dhabi is taking a progressive step to levelling the legal and judicial playing field, recognising the liberal tenets that are applied in other cultures.

Under the new law, issued on Sunday by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in his capacity as ruler of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, there will be equal legal rights for men and women, joint custody and the expediting of divorce procedures for non-Muslims.

The move is designed to bring personal status legislations in step with international practices and enhance the nation’s position as a destination for global talent. The new provisions allow spouses to have the right to divorce without needing to prove harm was done in the marriage.

Progressive legislation

The new legislation also provides for joint and equal custody of children, automatically granting it 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 intestate — without a will — half of their estate will automatically go to their spouse, with the other half going to their children.

There will be specialised court dedicated to non-Muslim family matters has also been introduced, and all the procedures of the court will be in Arabic and English — ensuring foreigners understand them. This also underscores the transparency at all stages of the due and judicial process.

This new law marks a bold chapter in the legal and judicial development of Abu Dhabi and the UAE as a whole.

Sadly, there are critics abroad who fail to understand the nature of this great nation and the lifestyle it affords to non-Muslims, and this law should silence those critics while providing equality and social justice domestically.

The law consists of 20 articles divided into several chapters covering civil marriage, divorce, joint custody of children and inheritance and marks the first time any nation has provided for and recognised the legal and social difficulties faced by non-Muslims when marriages fail, where children are affected, or when death strikes suddenly. It is a good day’s work.