Inés Piñel Lorenzo
Elnaggar & Partners
Paralegal, Elnaggar & Partners
In the United Arab Emirates, Muslim marriage is governed by the Federal Law No. 28/2005 on Personal Status (hereinafter referred as Personal Status Law or PSL). There are many misconceptions about Muslim marriage in the UAE, some of the most common myths are, for example: "Once we are married, her/his property is also mine", "All earnings are merged into one after marriage" and "Only one spouse is responsible for caring for the children". It is important to understand that these beliefs are not correct or accurate, and in this article we will explore why.
UAE's ongoing social and legal reforms are paving the way for women's economic independence. The Personal Status Law comprehensively regulates family matters (marriage, divorce, separation) but crucially, it also guarantees financial autonomy for married spouses. This article delves into the financial rights of married women in the UAE, with a particular focus on strategies for safeguarding and managing their independent assets.
Financial Independence under UAE Personal Status Law
Contrary to some misconceptions, marriage in the UAE does not lead to an automatic merger of financial assets. Each spouse retains ownership and control over the assets they acquired before and during the marriage (Article 62 of PSL). This includes:
The concept of community property recognizes that certain assets belong to both spouses equally. These typically include assets acquired jointly through their combined efforts during the marriage. The management and distribution of these assets depend on the stipulations outlined in the marriage contract. In the absence of a contract, the PSL outlines a framework for equitable division based on factors like contribution, needs, and duration of the marriage.
Apart from this, why is important the financial transparency in a marriage?
Prior to the marriage, it is important for couples to be open and transparent about their finances. This will help them to understand each other's financial situation and make informed decisions about their future. It can also lead to discussions about a Pre- or Post-Nuptial Agreement, which can formalize financial arrangements and provide clarity for the future. At this stage its important identify the individual assets of each party.
During the marriage, imagine a situation where illness, unexpected hardships, or even loss can strike at any moment. In those storms, having your spouse's back goes beyond emotional support; it becomes about navigating challenges with knowledge and resources. This requires open communication and shared understanding of finances. Know the location of bank accounts, shared investments, and individual savings – a financial map for two. Equally crucial are key documents like medical records, life insurance policies, and legal power of attorney grants – a safety net woven together. With transparent finances and ready access to these documents, you and your partner can face any difficulty side-by-side, equipped to prioritize each other's well-being through the toughest times.
During any separation or divorce is important to ensure that both spouses will receive all the benefits and compensations to which they are legally entitled during separation or divorce. This may include division of assets and debts, child support, alimony and other specific rights (life insurance, inheritance…).
Duties and obligations of the spouses
The Personal Status Law in the UAE outlines a detailed framework for the rights and obligations of spouses within a marriage. These can be broadly categorized as mutual rights, rights specific to the wife, and rights specific to the husband.
MUTUAL RIGHTS (Article 54 of Personal Status Law):
WIFE RIGHTS (Article 55 of Personal Status Law):
HUSBAND RIGHTS (Article 56 of Personal Status Law):
Financial aspects of divorce in the UAE
Financial difficulties are one of the leading causes of divorce in the United Arab Emirates. Some of the most common situations include:
With regard to the law governing civil transactions in the UAE, and therefore applicable to Muslim marriages, the Federal Law No. 5/1985 On the Civil Transactions Law of the United Arab Emirates State Civil Code (hereinafter referred to as Civil Code), establishes that: "the law of the State where the marriage was celebrated shall govern the personal and property effects of the marriage contract" such as divorce, repudiation, and separation. (Article 15 of the Civil Code).
In simpler terms, if you are married in the UAE, regardless of your nationality, the UAE laws will generally govern your marriage in terms of rights, obligations, and the legal processes for its dissolution. So, if you got married in Dubai, even if you and your spouse are not UAE citizens, you will need to follow the UAE laws for divorce, property division, etc.
Regarding to the child custody, the PSL grants parents joint responsibility for their children, but it also distinguishes between custody and guardianship.
Custody refers to the day-to-day care of a child. In the UAE, custody of children under the age of 18 is usually granted to the mother. However, the father may also request custody, and the court will decide based on the best interests of the child.
Guardianship refers to the financial responsibility for a child. In the UAE, guardianship of children under the age of 18 is usually granted to the father. However, the mother may also request guardianship, and the court will decide based on the best interests of the child.
In 2016, the UAE passed the Wadeema's Law, which protects the rights of children in the country. It guarantees children the right to a family life, education, adequate healthcare, and protection from violence and abuse. Moreover, it emphasizes parental responsibility, ensuring parents fulfill their obligation to safeguard their children's rights.
The UAE's legal framework, encompassing the PSL, Wadeema's Law, and ongoing legislative developments, strives to create a safe and nurturing environment for children. By prioritizing their best interests, protecting their rights, and ensuring parental responsibility, the UAE sets a strong example for child protection within the region and beyond. However, the decision of who will have custody of the children in the event of divorce will be up to the courts of the United Arab Emirates.
In conclusion, I would like to share some tips for preventing marital conflict. These tips are based on the premise that open and honest communication, financial planning, and a willingness to resolve conflict peacefully are essential for a healthy and lasting relationship.
To nurture a thriving marriage, prioritizing open and honest communication is paramount. Discuss finances – income, expenses, debts, and goals – with transparency and clarity. This can be facilitated by encouraging individual bank accounts for each spouse, fostering financial autonomy while maintaining shared responsibility for family finances. For major assets like houses, consider joint ownership for mutual protection in case of unforeseen circumstances. Remember, under UAE law, an asset solely registered in one spouse's name belongs solely to them.
Instead of rushing to the courtroom, embrace alternative solutions when financial disagreements arise. Mediation and conciliation offer cost-effective and amicable paths to resolving conflict, preserving goodwill, and often leading to swifter outcomes.
Finally, consider the safety net of pre- or post-nuptial agreements. While there's an initial legal cost, these contracts outline financial expectations and obligations, potentially mitigating future strain and conflict if circumstances change. Remember, proactive planning pales in comparison to the emotional and financial turmoil of contested divorces.
Inés Piñel Lorenzo
Elnaggar & Partners
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