The President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan made several presidential decrees changing some articles in the Federal Penal Code, Personal Status Law, and the Federal Penal Procedural Law. This will amend family law and other areas affecting people’s lives. The laws are effective immediately and aim to improve the quality of life for UAE’s residents and continue to be a popular foreign investment destination. Amendment and the introduction of new laws aim to regulate important civil and personal laws. The provisions allow ex-pats to live like UAE citizens.
Civil Law in the UAE
The UAE Civil Code refers to the legislative document that controls all civil matters, proceedings, and trials that affect civilians. For instance, Dubai’s civil law is founded on other Arab countries, especially Egypt. The UAE laws also borrow from Sharia Islamic Law. The Dubai civil law governs private and civil transactions; however, other codes control commercial activities and various business transactions.
Changes to Personal and Family Law
There are more than 200 nationalities in the country and the UAE seeks to have their affairs treated by the laws of their home countries. Amendments will affect divorce and separation, suicide, alcohol, wills and assets separation, and the protection of women.
Divorce and Inheritance
One of the biggest changes happened to the divorce, separation, and division of property after a marriage fails. If you and your spouse were married in your home country, but divorce in the UAE, your home country laws apply in this process. Unlike in the past, non-Muslim ex-pats who divorce in the country do not have to apply the Sharia Law or request for the application of their country’s laws. You only need your lawyer from a law firm in Dubai to guide you through each step.
The law also deals with joint assets and accounts; the court can mediate if the 2 parties had no agreement. It also mentions inheritance and wills. Until now, the Sharia Law dictated how to divide deceased person assets, especially in acrimonious cases. Unlike in the past, your citizenship will determine how to divide your property to the next of kin, unless you have a will. However, any property bought in the UAE is managed under the UAE’s law.
Suicide and ‘Good Samaritan’
Although in the past it was rare to prosecute and an individual who survived after an attempted suicide, previous laws could lead to prosecution. The courts and police would ensure that vulnerable individuals received mental health support. Anyone found aiding an individual to attempt suicide will go to jail for an unspecified period.
‘Good Samaritans’ who intervene whenever people are in need are not held liable for the outcomes of the situation. Under a rarely-used clause, you could be held accountable if you give CPR or any other kind of first aid and cause injury or death. However, in the new law, your good intentions will not be punished no matter the outcome. The new legislation allows people to ask for help without worrying about putting the burden on someone else.
Harassment and Assault
Various amendments seek to protect women’s rights. Unlike before, there is no distinction of ‘honor crimes’ where males received lighter sentences for assaulting female relatives as an act of ‘protecting honor’; this will be treated like any other assault case. Tougher punishments will be imposed for all types of harassment towards women. The rape of a person with limited mental capacity or a minor attracts the death penalty.
Alcohol consumption is no longer a crime; drinking, possessing, or selling alcohol in authorized areas without a license will not be penalized. You should be at least 21 years to consume alcohol in the UAE; selling alcohol to an underage individual is punished. Alcohol can be consumed in licensed public places or privately. You can even visit the Insurance Authority Dubai website to see whether you can ensure your business.
Cohabitation for Unmarried Couples
This is the first time the law is legally allowing unmarried couples to cohabitate. In the past, it was illegal for unrelated flatmates or unmarried couples to share a home in the UAE. In the past, the authorities rarely prosecuted or targeted anyone doing this. However, they now ensure that ex-pats feel like they are not breaking any laws.
The new law requires the provision of translators for defendants and witnesses who do not speak Arabic. The court has to provide legal translators. Also, the new privacy law indicates that evidence for indecent acts will be protected and not publicly exposed.
The United Arab Emirates made significant changes to the legal system; overhauls were made to the family law and other areas affecting individuals’ lives. The new laws lift the restrictions on alcohol laws and unmarried couples living together. They will improve the UAE’s living standards and continue attracting foreign investors.
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