Cohabitation of unmarried couples was recently decriminalised in the UAE.
Question: I am an American citizen and am planning to move to the UAE with my girlfriend. The recent legal reforms that make living-in relationship acceptable is a huge encouragement for me to take the decision to relocate to Dubai. We are planning to have a child soon. What will be the legal status of our child if we decide to have one since we are not married? Please advise.
Answer: It may be noted that prior to the recent legal reforms announced by the UAE government with respect to various laws – one of them being the provisions of Federal Law No. (3) of 1987 Related to Issuance of Penal Code (Penal Law of UAE) – engaging in a relationship (sexual) with someone not married to you was considered as a criminal offence.
This is in accordance with Article 356 of the Penal Law of UAE, which states: “Without prejudice to the preceding two Articles, the crime of indecent assault with mutual consent shall be punished by detention for at least one year; however if the crime is committed against a male or female who is under fourteen years of age, or if the crime is committed by coercion, it shall be punished by temporary imprisonment.”
In light of the aforementioned legal reforms announced by the UAE government, cohabitation of unmarried couples has been decriminalised and shall no longer constitute as an offence. However, it may be prudent to note that no legal reform has been announced yet with respect to the legal status of a child born out of wedlock.
Furthermore, you and your girlfriend shall be required to present your valid marriage certificate for the issuance of a birth certificate of your new born child. In the event you are unable to submit a valid marriage certificate, a birth certificate may not be issued for your new born child. You may seek further clarification on this from the relevant ministry of the UAE government.
Ashish Mehta is the founder and Managing Partner of Ashish Mehta & Associates. He is qualified to practise law in Dubai, the United Kingdom and India. Full details of his firm on: www.amalawyers.com. Readers may e-mail their questions to: [email protected] or send them to Legal View, Khaleej Times, PO Box 11243, Dubai.