As published in Gulfnews
By Abdulla Rasheed, Abu Dhabi Editor
Abu Dhabi Judicial Department inaugurates new bilingual civil court for family matters
Abu Dhabi: The first-ever court specialising in personal status cases for non-Muslim foreigners has been launched in Abu Dhabi.
Youssef Saeed Al Abri, Undersecretary of Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD), on Tuesday inaugurated the court.
The development comes as part of the executive procedures introduced to implement the law governing non-Muslim personal status matters in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.
This has been promulgated by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in his capacity as Ruler of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, with the aim of providing a flexible and elaborate judicial mechanism to settle family disputes for non-Muslims, so as to enhance the emirate’s position and global competitiveness as one of the most attractive destinations for expertise and skills.
In his opening speech, Al Abri said the establishment of the first specialised court for non-Muslim family matters is part of the continuous efforts being made to further develop the judicial system of the emirate of Abu Dhabi, in line with the directives of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Presidential Affairs and Chairman of the Judicial Department of Abu Dhabi, to work continuously to keep up with all changes and developments in order to assert its leadership in the judicial field.
Bilingual, civil court
The new specialised court will be competent to hear cases related to non-Muslim personal status matters and all related forms and procedures will be bilingual (Arabic and English), in order to facilitate the understanding of legal proceedings by foreigners and to strengthen transparency of the judicial system, Al Abri added.
The Undersecretary of the ADJD said the Personal Status Law for Non-Muslims, which is applied by the Court, is “the first of its kind in the world” to apply civil principles in the regulation of family matters, as it addresses the smallest details regarding non-Muslim family issues, and provides a modern judicial umbrella for foreigners to resolve disputes in a flexible manner in accordance with international best practices.
What the law covers
The law consists of 20 articles divided into several chapters covering civil marriage, divorce, joint custody of children and inheritance, with the regulation of marriage procedures for foreigners before the court by introducing the concept of civil marriage based on the will of the husband and wife, divorce procedures and the rights of divorced spouses after divorce and the discretionary power of the judge to assess the financial rights of the wife based on several criteria.
The law also introduces the concept of joint custody of children following divorce custody, which is the equal participation of both the father and mother in the custody, in order to safeguard the cohesion of the family after divorce and to preserve the psychological health of the children.
In addition, the new law deals with other issues such as inheritance, will registration, the right of the foreigner to bequest, by will, all his possessions to the beneficiary of his/her choice, as well regulating the child paternity for non-Muslim foreigners, by providing that paternity is proved by marriage or by declaration.