Thursday, January 22, 2015


Prof. Gabriel Sawma

The law of marriage and divorce in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is governed by Federal law no. 28, 2005, known as Personal Status Law. Article 1 states the following:

“The provisions of this Law shall apply on citizens of the United Arab Emirates States unless non-Muslims among them have special provisions applicable to their community or confession. They shall equally apply to non-citizens unless of them asks for the application of his law.”

This means the UAE law allows a couple who have marital conflict to seek the application of their own laws before the court. This process can be easily applicable when both parties of the conflict have same nationality. In such a situation both parties may seek the application of the law at the time the marriage was contracted as stated in Article 12(1) of the UAE Civil Code, 1985.

The case becomes complicated when each party to the marital conflict has different nationality. The Personal Status Law does not address this topic; however, we can find a remedy in the Civil Code of 1985. Article 13(1) of the Code states the following:

“The law of the state of which the husband is a national at the time the marriage is contracted shall apply to the effects on personal status, and the effects with regard to property, resulting from the contracting of the marriage.”

It is important to note that U.S. citizens who marry UAE should know that the law of the husband applies to the rules of divorce, not the law of the wife’s state. This is confirmed by article 14 of the Civil Code which states that “. . . if one of the spouses is a national at the time the marriage is contracted, the law of the United Arab Emirates alone shall apply. . .”

It is also important to note that the Civil Code of the United Arab Emirates is based on the principles of Islamic Sharia. Thus a woman marrying a UAE national will be subject to the rules of Islamic law in matters related to divorce and custody of the children, even though she kept her non-Muslim faith during the marriage. This topic will be covered by another article on this website.

DISCLAIMER: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

Gabriel Sawma is a lawyer with Middle East background, and a recognized authority on Islamic law of marriage, divorce and custody of children, Hindu marital disputes in U.S. courts, and Iran divorce in USA.
Professor of Middle East Constitutional Law and Islamic law; Expert Consultant on Islamic divorce in US Courts and Canada. Expert Consultant on Hindu divorce in U.S. courts and Iranian divorce in USA.
Admitted to the Lebanese Bar Association; former Associate Member of the New York State Bar Association and the American Bar Association.
Prof. Sawma lectured at the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) in New York State and wrote many affidavits to immigration authorities, Federal Courts, and family State Courts in connection with recognition of Islamic foreign divorces in the U.S., Hindu divorces, and Iranian marital conflicts.
Taught Islamic Finance for MBA program at the University of Liverpool, United Kingdom.
Travelled numerous times to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and the Arabian Gulf States, Jordan, Syria, Palestine, and wrote extensively on Islamic and Hindu divorces, custody of children in USA and abroad, and abduction of children to Muslim countries.
Speaks, reads and writes several languages including Arabic, English, French and others
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Contact Information:

Tel. (609) 915-2237

For more information on the law of marriage, divorce and custody of children in the United Arab Emirates, please visit our websites at the following links:

For more information on the author, please see Curriculum Vitae at this link:

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