Are you in a relationship? A legal one?

11 May, 2020

As per the UAE’s regulations, the only legal bond for a man and a woman to establish a relationship and form a family is marriage. Cohabitation for unmarried couples is not allowed in the UAE and it is considered a criminal offense.

Marriage itself is identified as a legal contract between a man and a woman, that is meant to protect the rights of the couple and their children. As in other jurisdictions, there are few conditions that have to be fulfilled by a couple in order to be able to get married.

Is religion a key factor for the bride and groom to be married?

The religion of the future spouses is quite an important factor, which will determine what steps will be required to be taken further. If both groom and bride are non-Muslim, but they are both residents in the UAE, they can conclude their marriage at the consulate of their country in the UAE or at any temple or church as per their religion.

When both, groom and bride, are Muslims, their marriage will be conducted according to the Sharia provisions.

If only the groom is Muslim, the bride has to be from what is called “Ahl Al- Kitaab” (which includes only Christians and Jewish). Any other religion of the bride will not be taken into consideration unless she will convert to Islam or to one of the religions recognized by Islam (Christianity and Judaism).

While the law permits a Muslim man to marry a non-Muslim woman, it does not allow a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim man without proof of his conversion to Islam.

Is there a minimum age for the bride/groom to be eligible for Marriage?

The age of majority in the UAE is 21 years old, the age of maturity is 18 years old and whoever matures before reaching the age of 18, will be allowed to marry by the authorization of the judge, after he will prove an interest.

A Muslim bride needs a Wali,"Agent of the bride",  for the marriage contract to be duly executed.

What is the legal meaning for the Wali institution in UAE?

The Wali, "Agent of the bride", is not a new demand for countries following the Sharia’s principles, like UAE. The main purpose of having such a condition to be followed upon marriage is not to replace the consent of the woman by her agent’s consent, but to make sure that she is protected and she will not be deceived into a marriage relationship that would not suit her aspirations.

Who is allowed to be the Wali, "Agent of the bride"?

The Wali has to be the father of the bride and if he is missing or is deceased, his duty will be passed to the next agnates, in the following order: son, then brother, then uncle.

The kinship and the effective relationship between the father and his daughter (or in any other case where the father cannot fulfill his duty) should represent enough proof that the Wali,"Agent", will act only in the best interest of the woman.

What are the legal requirements for the father/agnates to be a Wali /s?

The Wali can only be a sound-minded person and fully capable.

As for those cases when a woman cannot have a Wali, the judge will be the one who will substitute the Wali's position.

What is the Wali's involvement in the marriage affair?

Pursuant to the provisions of Article no. 39, Personal Status Law, in order for the marriage contract to be valid, the Wali, "Agent of the bride", after having her consent will carry on with the procedures regarding the marriage. She will only sign the marriage contract in front of the religious authorized official.

Any concluded marriage that took place in the absence of the bride’s Wali will be invalid.

Is the presence of the witness required for the validity of the marriage? 

Among the other conditions of the marriage contract stands the presence of two witnesses. They have to be: Muslims, males, enjoying full capacity, sound-minded and last but not least they have to hear and understand the words pronounced by the contracting parties and have to be sure with no doubt that the aim of such words is marriage.

What happens when the bride-to-be is not Muslim?

When a Muslim is marrying a Christian or a Jewish woman, the witnesses can be Christians or Jewish in accordance with the woman’s religion. Once again, the condition referring to the witness presence is essential for the validity of the marriage contract.

Are there other conditions for the marriage to be valid?

Finally, the last mandatory condition regarding the marriage contract’s validity is represented by the dowry, but this will be the subject of our next article.

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