General Guideline on Divorce for Non-Muslims in UAE

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What is there to know about the guidelines on divorce in the UAE when you are not a Muslim.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has the highest number of expats living in the region, constituting over 80% of the country’s population. Dubai being the number one in the list of divorce cases filed in the UAE.

Divorce itself is a difficult situation and having to go through it in a different country where the law and procedures are different is even more daunting. The parties applying for divorce have different nationalities and have different sets of legislations depending on the country where the marriage was solemnized. Through this article we will discuss a few frequently asked questions, when it comes to Divorce proceedings for expats living in the UAE. The procedure does not vary a lot from one emirate to another and is overall governed by the Federal Law No [28] of 2005 for Personal Affairs.

Where can divorce proceedings be initiated?

Non-Muslim couples can file for divorce in their home country as well as in the UAE courts. Travelling to the home country for filing divorce is normally a very expensive affair, as it would require them to travel back and forth to their home country for hearings, resulting in absence from work, travel costs etc., in addition to the litigation cost in the home country.

However, expats have the option to file for divorce in the UAE.  When they do so they have the option of having the local law of the UAE applied to their case or they can seek for the application of the legislations from their home country. In case, the husband and wife are from different countries then the legislations of the country from where the husband belongs shall prevail. It is important to mention here that in matters of child custody, division of assets the local law (Sharia) will apply.

How can I initiate divorce proceedings in UAE?

The proceedings for divorce can be initiated by either party. The first step (in emirate of Dubai) is to register a case with the Moral and Family Guidance Centre in Dubai Courts. As soon as a complaint is registered, a conciliator is assigned to the case. The first step at this Centre is to mediate between the estranged couple and to find an amicable settlement (either reconciliation or an amicable terms of divorce). If the parties so agree, amicable divorce can be concluded at this stage. If the couple is unable to reach a conclusion at this stage, the conciliator/conciliators provides the party with a referral letter which is to be submitted before a competent court within 3 months of date of issue.

The findings of the Centre are not legally binding on either party. Once the parties begin proceedings in court, the onus on the parties to prove their case before the court. When the couple seek to apply their home country legislations, they must provide the court with the relevant texts of the same translated to Arabic by a legal translator.

How much would it cost to obtain divorce in UAE?

An amicable divorce costs approximately Dh12,000 to Dh20,000, inclusive of court fee, procedural cost and lawyer’s fee (this is a general idea of how much it costs under normal circumstances, however this figure may vary depending on individual cases and intricacies). The cost of a divorce stated above is separate from the court’s direction of payment towards financial settlement and any disputes related to children custody, maintenance, division of assets etc.  Also, in matters that the legislation of the home country is silent, the UAE law shall be applied.

Will a divorce granted in the UAE be binding in the home country of expats?

In most countries, the decisions of courts of foreign country, hold validity if they were obtained following the due process of law (it depends on the Civil Procedure followed in the home country individually). So, a divorce granted by the Court in UAE will still be legally binding if it was obtained following the proper procedure here in UAE.

What if I file for divorce in UAE and my spouse files in home country?

In such a case the divorce proceeding here in UAE will proceed in its normal course irrespective of the fact that the spouse has filed for the same in the home country.


Having regard for the different nationalities residing in UAE, the Government of UAE has taken very progressive steps to embrace them and their local legislations and facilitate quick remedies through the courts here. So that the expat population is not discontented and does not feel alienated during the judicial process.

For further information about this article, please write to: M&A is a Dubai-based law firm boasting vast experience in disputes resolution and general corporate, commercial transactional services.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the details contained herein are correct and up to-date, this information does not constitute legal or other professional advice. We do not accept any responsibility, legal or otherwise, for any error or omission.