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Major UAE Law Changes in 2020 to Marriage, Suicide, Inheritance, Divorce, Alcohol-Boost Country’s Economy Amidst Pandemic

The local government in the (UAE) United Arab Emirates recently issued prominent reforms to its civil transactions, criminal procedure, and personal status laws. The amendments announced are part of the efforts of the country in boosting the economy amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re also target to develop a healthy investment and legislative environment, which fosters tolerance within the community. 

The new amendments approved by the President Sheikh Al-Nahyan are as follows:

  • Non-citizens or expatriates in UAE now allowed in utilizing their own country’s laws. If they wish them to apply for matters related to inheritance; 
  • Acts in penal code which don’t cause any harm onto others now decriminalized; 
  • Federal public persecutor now allowed and given the right in determining irregularities and misdemeanors which are subject to UAE penal code

The amendments to civil transaction and personal status codes will help make sure of stability for foreign investors’ financial interests in UAE. As for the amendments to the UAE penal code. And the criminal procedural legislation, they are to protect both social security and personal liberties. 

New amendments affecting safety of UAE residents 

With the recently announced reforms to UAE legislation, a huge step have taken towards the safety of women and gender equality. Effective immediately, legislation related to crimes that considered as honor crimes which allow a lighter and more lenient consequence for an assaulting male member of the family now abolished. 

There is no longer a lighter punishment for assaulting a woman that is a member of the family. An assault, regardless of the gender, will treated as any other assault. There will be a tougher sentence for men who choose to participate in harassing women including stalking and harassing women on the streets. Additionally, anyone who convicted of raping a minor or any individual with a limited mental capacity is to be executed.

Changes to UAE’s legal Procedures 

It’s now mandatory to have translators in court for witnesses or defendants that don’t speak Arabic. Also, any evidence that is in relation to indecent acts won’t be disclosed publicly any longer. 

Changes to UAE Legislation on Inheritance, Divorce, Marriage


An unmarried couple in UAE can now live in a single roof anywhere in UAE. It’s a great move for the country as up to this point. All unrelated roommates not allowed in sharing one space legally.

Take note: the new amendment also applies to roommates or flat mates that are of opposite genders. 

You may want to know: Getting married in the UAE: What are the documents needed?


With the division of assets following divorce, a lot of things are different now. Laws of the country where the marriage was registered will applicable when a couple decides in parting ways. Local courts will only step in if mediation is required as there isn’t any agreement reached by any of the parties involved. 


With regards to inheritance, an expat bound by the Sharia laws. With the new legislation in place, the nationality of a person will decide as to the rules on asset division. Rules from the deceased person’s home country will applicable when inheritance divided.  

 The only exemption with the rule is applied for properties that are purchased in UAE as they will be managed in accordance to the laws in UAE. 

 Changes to the legislation re: consumption of alcohol 

Following last September’s announcement which allowed alcohol consumption in Abu Dhabi even without an alcohol license issued to a resident, UAE legislation has been loosed further. Anyone that wishes to sell, possess or drink alcohol in an authorized area across the UAE will be able to do so. Yes, even without an alcohol license. There will no longer be penalties related to alcohol. Take note: UAE’s legal drinking age is 21. 

 New legislation for suicide 

Suicide, including attempted suicide, would no longer be criminal acts in the UAE. Prior to the announcement of the amended UAE legislation anyone who tries to take their lives and survives the process will have to be fined or face a jail sentence. That’s no longer applicable in UAE now. Anyone who is vulnerable mentally will be provided with proper support for their mental health. This includes from official courts and the Police. 

In previous clauses, UAE legislation also stated if someone tries giving CPR or first aid care to anyone who attempts to commit suicide will be punished. This is not the case anymore. 

Marriage legal advice in UAE 

Should you need further information regarding the constantly changing laws in UAE. Particularly marriage laws, don’t hesitate to reach out to us! At Dubai Court Marriage, our marriage lawyers in UAE have over twenty years of experience in providing legal advice and assistance with the UAE’s legal system as well as its framework. however, we offer support and legal advice to couples who decide to tie the knot anywhere in UAE. Call us today!

Hazim Darwish Practicing law for almost a decade, he has in-depth knowledge on UAE legislation with particular expertise on family law, and regulatory compliance for business organizations. Hazim Darwish also provides counsel on legal rights and obligations in the UAE to clients, including individuals and businesses subject to investigation or prosecution under Criminal Law by major regulators.