Custody and Guardianship Rights for Non-Muslims in the UAE

Similar to other legal systems, there is no distinction between religion and ethnicity in the UAE. Each person has a responsibility to make sure that pertinent and up-to-date documentation is accessible if a resident passes away or becomes incapable. We want to focus on the importance of understanding the Will and Guardianship processes in this particular topic. You must be informed of the UAE’s guardianship laws if you and your family are currently residents of the country as emigrants.

The fundamental tenet of these laws is that choices involving children must be made with their best interests in mind. These laws are based on the principles of Islamic Sharia. They apply to both Muslim and non-Muslim households in the UAE, as well as to local and expatriate families.

For non-Muslim expats living in the UAE, the government of Dubai established the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry to enable them to transfer assets located in Dubai and choose guardians for their children following their Wills.

The distinction between custody and guardianship

An intriguing part of UAE custody rules is the numerous roles parents are assigned, such as “custodian” or “guardian.”

The guardian of a child is responsible for the child’s financial support, major choices regarding his or her upbringing and education, and general management of the child’s affairs. 

The caretaker, on the other hand, participates in the child’s everyday activities. The custodian also has physical custody of the child and is in charge of raising and caring for it.

It is usual for one parent to fulfill both roles. Before the kids reach a particular age, the mother is typically handed custody, but the father is still considered the guardian. However, the Court has the power to decide what is in the child’s best interests.

Until the kid reaches adulthood or for a predetermined amount of time, the selected guardian is in charge. Following the death of the guardian, a temporary guardian cares after the child by providing them with a safe place to reside and collecting them up from school until a permanent guardian takes over.

A temporary guardian needs to live in the area. Regularly, family members who are accountable for the child’s long-term serve as permanent guardians. They are consulted on all significant choices, including the child’s future residence and education.

The Significance of Will

Whether you live in Dubai or anywhere else, you must have a will in place to cover all the nations where you have assets. A Will provides explicit instructions to the courts and families for how your assets must be distributed and, most importantly, who should care for your children while you are away.

If there is no Will in existence when someone passes away, it could take longer to distribute the money to the heirs. Probate may proceed more quickly if you prepare it better.

The UAE’s Guardianship Law

When someone passes away in the UAE, all of their assets are frozen, allowing the estate’s debts to be settled. To settle the deceased’s estate, the family must proceed to the Court of First Instance and get a Shariah Certificate. They have 30 days to petition the Supreme Court to overturn the judgment. Employing a local law company at a predetermined cost would be great because it will simplify your duty in court.

The surviving spouse is the child’s custodian if one parent passes away. Naturally, the husband serves as the guardian if he lives. If no instructions are made in advance, a local judge will decide who will be the children’s guardian. Although the local judge will act in the child’s best interests, proceeding without a verified document could delay the outcome at a time when the focus should be on the child’s care.

It’s important to note that the children won’t always be given to the parents’ families or other close friends if both the mother and father pass away. If a child reaches a specific age without having a designated guardian, they may become a government ward. They can be divided up and handed to families residing in the UAE. The legal process could take months or even years if the family decides to ask for the children’s return.

Non-Muslim Expat Options

Although it may seem expensive to file a Will or a Temporary Guardianship agreement in the UAE, doing so is the safest course of action. As a crucial addendum to the Will, a multilingual declaration designating the guardians and temporary guardians must also be included. If you don’t register, you’ll have to deal with the court system, get legal advice from a local firm, and run the danger of having local law go against what you expect. Before adding temporary guardianship paperwork and registering it, make sure you have a Will in force.

There are currently options for registering a will through the DIFC Wills Service Centre (DIFC WSC) and the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD). Both alternatives assist non-Muslim parents in naming both temporary and long-term guardians for the child. They can decide how their financial assets will be divided after they pass away as well.

Parents must register a Guardianship-Only Will, which allows both temporary and permanent guardians to be specified but cannot address properties, with the DIFC WSC if they only desire to mention guardianship in their will. The chosen guardians will be recognized legally to represent the children’s best interests if the worst happens to the parents. Furthermore, if the Will is properly written, the guardians will be permitted to take the kids with them on trips as needed.


Expats living in Dubai can be distant, especially for those without the local support system that an extended family can offer. It’s important to stress that parents have thought about and communicated their wishes to individuals they trust regarding their child’s immediate and long-term care if calamity happens.

It’s important to remember that a child becomes an orphan under Islamic law even if one parent dies. The UAE is particularly stringent about its obligations to orphaned children. If a suitable guardian or custodian cannot be found, the kids will be brought into The Women and Children’s Shelter Facility’s custody until a guardian can be found and the legal procedures are followed.

Finally, it’s a good idea to seek comprehensive legal counsel from a knowledgeable advisor to ensure that the document you’re drafting appropriately reflects your intentions and protects your children. Contact our qualified legal consultants to go over this in more depth.

2 thoughts on “Custody and Guardianship Rights for Non-Muslims in the UAE

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