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Overhaul of Divorce Law in UAE

overhaul UAE divorce law

Beware: Overhaul of Divorce Law in the UAE


The United Arab Emirates (UAE) government has announced a raft of changes to family law, effective immediately, which are going to have a big impact for the more than 200 nationalities currently calling it home, including a large number of British citizens.


Announced last Saturday, the laws are said to be aimed at improving living standards and promoting the UAE as a destination for both tourism and investment from around the world.


One of the big law changes include how divorce is dealt with in the UAE for foreign nationals. The new law means that the laws of a person’s country of marriage can now be used for divorces, meaning the local Islamic law, or Sharia, would not apply. However, all is not as simple as it seems. The new law states that a couple who wish to divorce in Dubai will be subject to the divorce law of the country where the marriage took place, and not, crucially, where the couple are citizens of. Whilst this may not be an issue for those who were married in the United Kingdom, the issue will likely arise for those who have married in foreign countries or whilst on holiday. Always seek specialist international family law advice.


Overseas marriages for UK couples have been on the steady rise for a number of years, with many choosing remote locations not only for their weather, but as a means to cut costs. Typical destinations include Spain, Italy, Greece and Croatia, but some couples go further afield to the Maldives or Thailand. Under the UAE’s new regime, British couples living in the country who have married in one of these travel destinations will be subject to the law of a country they have married in, but never actually lived in.


The specific wording of the new law has yet to be revealed, but it is likely that family lawyers with expatriate clients will keep a close eye on the finer details.


Under the UAE’s previous divorce laws, non-Muslim expat couples who divorced in the UAE could opt to have either Sharia or the laws of their home country applied, though if the couple had different passports the laws of the husband’s country would apply.


Many British citizens are likely to try to issue divorce proceedings in England and Wales rather than go through the UAE court system, the result of which often requires significant translations of home country legislation at a considerable cost. With the new changes, those marrying outside of England and Wales may face an even greater incentive to rethink any decision to issue divorce proceedings in the UAE lest they be faced with a UAE judge applying the divorce laws of Thailand!


The team at Maguire Family Law are experts in international divorce and family law cases. James Maguire is a fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers and we also have contacts with a number of leading divorce and family lawyers worldwide. For more information, you can contact us by email at or WhatsApp on 07725 115219. Alternatively if you are able to call us we are more than happy to discuss matter with you over the telephone on 01625 544650.

For specialist advice on any family law related issue contact Maguire Family Law by email: or telephone:

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