The UAE Announces Major Changes to Regulate Personal and Family Laws

Search Insight


UAE announced major changes to several personal and family laws affecting a large number of people both residing within the UAE and/or merely visiting.

In line with its robust reforms to boost the country’s economic and social standing, the UAE announced on Saturday major changes to several personal and family laws affecting a large number of people both residing within the UAE and/or merely visiting.

This broadening of personal freedoms not only enhances the UAE’s efforts towards tolerance, but also highlights the country’s success story as a melting pot for over 200 nationalities, different cultures, religions and races harmoniously co-existing. This move will continue to strengthen the UAE’s position as a leader in the international arena, and the ideal destination for foreign direct investment. Some of the most important changes that will take effect immediately include:


The new laws state that evidence related to cases of indecent acts will have to be protected and cannot be publicly disclosed except to those concerned in the case.


Previously, divorces were carried out under the UAE law which was based on Sharia or Islamic Law. The reform indicates that the law from the country where the marriage took place will apply. The new law also mentions joint assets & joint accounts, with the court mediating if there is no agreement between the parties.


The changes allow for the person’s citizenship to dictate division of assets, unless they have a written will. This does not apply to property purchases in the UAE, which will be managed according to UAE law.

Suicide and Good Samaritans

These will be decriminalized and vulnerable people will now receive mental health support. As for good samaritans, or those who intervene in situations to assist others in need, they will not be liable for the outcome of their help. This is in line with international best practice that wishes to encourage assistance of others.

Harassment and Assault

Most significant are the number of amendments promoting and protecting women’s rights. The distinction of honour crimes will be abolished, and such crimes will be treated as any other crimes. In addition, there will be stronger punishments for subjecting women to harassment of any kind. Also, the rape of a minor or someone with limited mental capacity will be punished with execution.

Alcohol Consumption

While punishment for purchasing or consuming alcohol without a license rarely takes place, the new laws provide a greater peace of mind as this is no longer a criminal offence. It remains that alcohol must be consumed privately or in licensed public places.

Cohabitation for Unmarried Couples

A milestone reform, the cohabitation of unmarried couples is now legal. This applies not only to couples but also unrelated flatmates sharing a home in the UAE.

Judicial Procedure

A huge step towards strengthening due process, the new law now requires that translators are provided for defendants and witnesses in court if they do not speak Arabic.

These changes signal a great confidence in the national and its identity especially for a home to more than 200 nationalities. They are crucial milestones in improving living standards in the UAE for people from around the world, and reflects the UAE’s effort to keep up with a rapidly changing society.

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. Operating in an increasingly challenging market, we are a dynamic, innovative and dedicated firm with an effective blend of experienced lawyers and young talents. We conduct business in Arabic, English and French with equal proficiency.

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.