What Is Civil Marriage Under Abu Dhabi Law?

Marriage is a crucial aspect of any society, representing the union of two individuals in a lifelong commitment. Across the world, there are various laws in place to regulate the legal procedures and conditions for couples seeking to wed. In the United Arab Emirates, Family Law is governed by Shariah law, which covers marriage, divorce, and inheritance. However, the capital city of Abu Dhabi has enacted Law No. 14 of 2021 Concerning Personal Status for non-Muslim Foreigners, allowing interfaith couples and non-Muslims to enter into civil marriages. This law has been thoughtfully designed to cater to the diverse population of Abu Dhabi, including job seekers and tourists from varying religious, cultural, and legal backgrounds. While Abu Dhabi’s civil marriage regulations raise numerous questions and concerns, this article seeks to provide a comprehensive overview of the legislation, its scope, description, and associated particulars.civil marriage under abu dhabi law

What is a Civil Marriage? 

A civil marriage is a legally recognized union between a man and woman of different faiths or a non-Muslim couple, which is formalized by means of a civil contract. Unlike religious marriages, which are solemnized in accordance with religious customs and laws, civil marriages are based on secular regulations and procedures. The primary objective of a civil marriage is to establish a legally binding contract that confers upon the couple certain legal rights and obligations, such as inheritance, property ownership, and social security benefits.

Advantages of Civil Marriage

Civil marriage in Abu Dhabi provides several benefits for couples seeking to formalize their union.

Firstly, it provides legal protection for both parties. The Personal Status Law sets out clear rules for the division of property, child custody, and alimony payments in case of divorce. Additionally, either party can file for divorce in specific circumstances, such as abuse, abandonment, or irreconcilable differences.

Secondly, civil marriage allows couples to enjoy various legal benefits, including inheritance rights and access to social security benefits. It also enables couples to sponsor each other for visas and residency permits, which is particularly beneficial for those from different countries.

Requirements for Civil Marriage in Abu Dhabi

In Abu Dhabi, there are specific legal requirements that need to be met before couples can get married under civil law. The first requirement is that both parties should have attained the legal age of 18 years or above. The second requirement is that there should be free and mutual consent of both parties to enter into the marriage contract.

Additionally, both parties must sign a declaration form that acknowledges that they are not married to anyone else at the time of the marriage. This declaration form is an important legal document that confirms the marriage as a legitimate union between the two individuals. It ensures that neither party is already legally committed to another person and protects against potential legal disputes in the future.

It is crucial to note that same-sex marriage is not permitted in Abu Dhabi, and the marriage contract should only be between a man and a woman of different sexes. Failure to comply with any of these legal requirements may result in the invalidation of the marriage contract. 

It is worth noting that applicants for a civil marriage are not required to have their father’s or guardian’s approval or a premarital screening certificate. These requirements are usually mandatory under Shariah law for Muslim marriages, but they do not apply to civil marriages. Therefore, individuals seeking a civil marriage in Abu Dhabi have greater autonomy and independence in their decision-making regarding their union.

How to Apply and Required Documents

Applying for a civil marriage in Abu Dhabi is a straightforward process. You have two options: apply online through the Interactive Case Registration (ICR) service on the Judicial Department-Abu Dhabi website or visit the Family Court building in Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi to submit your application in person. Once you have selected your preferred option, you can begin the application process.

To complete your application, you must provide the necessary documents. These include a completed and signed marriage application form, a copy of the passport or Emirates ID for both parties, and a proof of no record of an existing marriage for both parties. Additionally, you may choose to submit a marriage agreement. This document outlines the terms and conditions of your marriage and is entirely optional.

It is worth noting that Abu Dhabi has established a non-Muslim Family Court to hear and resolve family matters involving non-Muslims. This court provides a platform for non-Muslims to resolve their family disputes within the legal framework that accommodates their distinct cultural, religious, and legal backgrounds. With the introduction of the non-Muslim Family Court, non-Muslims can have their family matters adjudicated under the same legal system that governs their civil marriages, providing a comprehensive legal framework for non-Muslim families residing in Abu Dhabi.