- Cohabitation of unmarried couples
- Divorce and inheritance
- Honour killings and harassment
- Decriminalised acts
The UAE is constantly looking for ways to improve its infrastructure and legal framework, to enhance the lifestyle of residents and visitors. In November 2020, the government announced sweeping changes to personal and family laws in the UAE, which will help to increase the country’s appeal to expatriate residents from across the globe.
Learn all about the new UAE laws in 2020 regarding cohabitation, divorce, inheritance and more.
What are the new changes to personal and family laws in the UAE?
In light of the multicultural population in Dubai and other emirates, the UAE’s government has implemented changes to the personal status law and civil code, reflecting the country’s progressive principles of tolerance and harmony.
The announcement included both amendments to existing laws as well as the introduction of new laws, which were approved by H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE.
The cohabitation of unmarried couples
As per the new laws in the UAE, the cohabitation of unmarried couples is now legal across the country. Previously, the UAE law for unmarried couples stated that cohabitation for such residents was illegal. The previous law also applied to unrelated flatmates of the opposite genders.
Now, unmarried couples living together in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and other emirates will be able to do so, without worry.
Divorce and inheritance for expats
There were also amendments to the family laws in the UAE, related to matters such as divorce and inheritance.
According to the new law, if a couple who married in a foreign country applies for divorce in the UAE, the laws of the country where the marriage took place will be applicable. If both parties cannot agree, the court will intervene and mediate, as per the new personal and family laws in the UAE.
The changes to the personal status law in the UAE also cover inheritance and wills. When an expat passes away in the UAE, the laws of their country of nationality will now apply when dividing their assets among the next of kin.
As per previous inheritance laws in the UAE, a deceased expat’s assets would be distributed as per the Islamic Sharia law. However, the new UAE laws in 2020 allow for more freedom, when it comes to personal matters like inheritance.
It’s also important to note that if the deceased expat had a will in place, then the division of assets will be subject to that. However, this excludes property in the UAE, which is still governed by local law.
These amendments to the UAE personal status law will help to attract top foreign talent and encourage them to invest in the country.
Honour killings and assault
The UAE has long been a champion of women’s rights and has led by example when it comes to gender equality. The recent changes are another step to ensure that women’s rights in the UAE are protected and upheld.
According to the new regulations in the UAE, ‘honour killings’ will no longer carry a lighter sentence. Instead, the leniency towards honour killings has been abolished and the act will be treated as a crime. Thus, offenders shall now be subject to the relevant articles in the UAE’s Penal Code.
The UAE has also introduced stricter punishment for offenders who harass women, which includes street harassment and stalking.
Other amendments to the law
Along with changes to the personal and family laws, the country has also decriminalised certain acts that do not harm others. For instance, alcohol consumption is no longer a criminal offence, and residents no longer require a license to drink or own alcohol. However, the minimum age for consumption remains 21 years and will continue to be allowed only in private spaces or licensed areas.
Suicide and attempted suicide will also no longer be treated as a criminal act. Those who attempt to commit suicide will not be prosecuted; instead, they will be required to receive the appropriate mental health treatment. However, those who assist others in committing suicide will still face criminal charges.
Additionally, people who have assisted others in need of urgent help, such as CPR or First Aid, but have instead inflicted harm unintentionally, will no longer be held accountable for the outcome.
These changes to the personal and family laws in the UAE, as well as civil and penal code will strengthen the country’s position as a safe and secure environment for all residents, and will promote multiculturalism and tolerance!
You can also learn more about the UAE Vision 2021; the national agenda aims to make the country a leader in terms of economic and social development.
Want to move to this amazing country? Discover more about life for European expats in the UAE, which offers a high standard of living and world-class facilities. The UAE also attracts many Indian expats; learn more about what life in Dubai for Indians is like.
You can also find out more about the proposed amendment to the UAE Citizenship Law, which could allow certain expats to be eligible for Emirati citizenship.
Follow our Rules and Regulations section to learn more about the country’s laws, such as consumer rights in the UAE.