How Does Divorce For Non-Muslims Work?

How Does Divorce For Non-Muslims Work?

Over 80% of the UAE population comprise of expats, many of whom are non-Muslims. But divorce for non-Muslims cases in the UAE are generally governed by Sharia, so how can this be any different for non-Muslims?  

In this article we will discuss divorce for non-Muslims in the UAE. Whereas marriage between Muslims is governed solely by the Sharia, non-Muslim expats can file a divorce:

 1) Directly in their home country; or

2) Using the UAE laws and Sharia principles

adopted by the UAE courts; or

3) Adopting their home country’s laws in the UAE courts.



As per UAE law, an expat may file for divorce in their home country. Prior to doing so, we would recommend considering the costs and benefits of filing in the home country versus filing in the UAE.

If the divorce for non-Muslims takes place in the UAE, the court will apply Sharia principles, unless a non-Muslim expat requests otherwise. Nevertheless, a divorcing non-Muslim couple agreeing to separate amicably can enter into a settlement agreement that does not need to follow Sharia principles.

Sharia principles will also not apply if the court agrees to apply the law of expat’s home country. However, it must be noted that the court will not apply such foreign law to a division of assets. For example, in contrast to laws of many European countries, as per Sharia the spouse is entitled to any of the assets held solely in the name of the husband.

Therefore, there is no one right answer how to proceed with a divorce. The best way forward to secure your rights and interests would be highly dependent on the specific facts and circumstances of your case.


If a party wishes to have their home country’s laws govern the divorce for non-Muslims, they would have to apply to the court for such. However, if the husband and wife are of different nationalities, Article 13 of Federal Law No. 5 of 1985 shall apply:

  1. The law of the State of the husband upon the conclusion of the marriage shall govern the personal and financial impacts set by the contract of marriage.

2. On the other hand, divorce shall be governed by the law of the State of the husband upon the time of divorce. As for the cases of divorce and separation, the law of the State of the husband upon the filing of the case shall apply.


It must be noted that where the law of the parties’ home country is silent on an area of divorce law, UAE law may be applied.

To initiate a divorce for non-Muslims, a party must file for it in the Emirate they, or the other party, live. Consequently, “a court appointed conciliator will try to reconcile the divorcing parties.” This process is a prerequisite to the court considering the case.

The parties may also agree to an “amicable divorce” at this stage. If they do so, the “parties will need to draft a settlement based on the[ir] mutual understanding and sign it before the conciliator.” Such an agreement need not adhere to the strictures of UAE law, the parties may agree to a division of assets and post-marital obligations at their discretion.

If a settlement cannot be reached, and continuation of the marriage is not tenable, the conciliator will furnish a letter allowing the parties to proceed to the “court to conclude their divorce.” This “letter should be submitted to the court within three months from the date” it is issued.

During the court proceedings, the parties will be required to submit supporting evidence for their claims and to defend against each other’s claims. The way this process is undertaken is within the court’s discretion. Once the judgment is issued, an appeal may be filed in a 28-day time period.


Thus, we can say that filing for divorce in the UAE may have its own advantages and disadvantages. Whether it is beneficial to so do would be highly dependent on the facts and circumstances of a particular case. If you require legal assistance with regards to a divorce case, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us to find the most cost-effective and efficient way to resolve your issue.