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No fault divorce law for expats in UAE (Abu Dhabi)

In recent times, The United Arab Emirate (UAE) has brought in some significant legal reforms surrounding marriage and divorce. As a result, many British expats living in the UAE will now be conflicted as to which jurisdiction they should begin their divorce under.

Most notably, Abu Dhabi has amended its federal laws by introducing a new secular no-fault divorce system that either spouse can instigate, without the need to go through with any mandatory mediation sessions.

This overhaul has also given the Abu Dhabi courts a wider discretion when assessing financial claims following divorce, which now gives consideration to factors including the length of the parties’ marriage, the parties’ ages, and their recourses.

It is important to note however that this new secular system is only available for non-Muslim foreign nationals living in Abu Dhabi. This does not apply to non-Muslim Emiratis, or Muslim foreign nationals.

Expatriate couples need to actively opt in to this secular law system in order to benefit from these changes.

There are many questions about these changes operating in practice, and so whilst these changes certainly expanded the freedoms available to expatriates living in Abu Dhabi, British expats living in the UAE may feel that they are likely to be better protected by proceedings under the jurisdiction of the English Courts through means that have been tried and tested. Although, it is worth highlighting that in the recent case of SA v FA, the Judge here endorsed the use of the court system in Abu Dhabi and took the view that the new law should be given a chance to prove itself. SA v FA also highlights that it can no longer be assumed that an English court will agree that it is the most convenient forum where substantial justice can be obtained.

Should a party suffer hardship as a result of an award given in the UAE, which falls short of what an English Court would regard as fair, then there is the potential to rely on the safety net application under Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984.

Expatriates considering which jurisdiction to apply for a divorce under should seek legal advice about what is most suitable for their case, and in which jurisdiction they are more likely to receive a more reasonable outcome in.

The team at Rayden’s will be able to advise you on your matrimonial rights under the current English and Welsh jurisdiction. This is the preferred route of many British expats domiciled abroad. Please contact us if you would like advice regarding international divorce, under the current English and Welsh jurisdiction.

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