UAE: What is the legal status of a child born out of wedlock?

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Dubai: If a child is born to parents who are not married or do not have the necessary marriage documents to support their marital status, what is the legal status of a child who may be born to the couple? Gulf News spoke to legal experts in the UAE on the recent changes to the country’s law.

Declaration of parentage

UAE-based lawyer Abeer Sharif, who is the founder of the Ask Legal mobile app, explained the change in cohabitation laws in the UAE: “A number of new laws have been enshrined in the UAE recently, that are more compatible with the multicultural environment of the country, and one of them is cohabitation. Cohabitation is now allowed in the UAE, and as a consequence the process of registering children who are born to an unmarried couple, has an easier procedure now.

Abeer Sharif

Abeer Sharif

“Unmarried couples are able to get a birth certificate issued for their child through a straight-forward process. The Head of the judicial department in Abu Dhabi issued a decision that unmarried expats are able to get a birth certificate for their child by applying for an interim order to the judge and then they need to appear before the judge and affirm that they are parents of the child. According to Article 89 and 90 of the UAE’s Family Law which states that, the father of the child should admit that he is the father before the judge,” she added.

Dr Hassan Elhais, legal consultant at Dubai-based Al Rowaad Advocated and Legal Consultants, said that earlier this year, Ministerial Decision No. 32 or 2021 was issued on ‘Organising the Procedures for Extracting the Records of Children Born to Foreign Parents Residing in the State’.

Dr Hassan Elhais

Dr Hassan Elhais

“As Article 356 of the UAE Penal Code was recently amended, consensual sex between two adults is no longer a crime provided the persons are not less than fourteen years or they are not insane. There is no law which provides that children born out of wedlock are accepted. However, with the recent amendment related to consensual sex, the parents of such children [born] out of wedlock may not be subject to criminal prosecution,” Dr Elhais said.

“As per Article 1 of the Ministerial Decision No. 32 of 2021, both parents may submit an application before the competent Sharia court, along with a statement from the hospital confirming the child’s birth, acknowledgement of the existence of a marriage relationship between the parents of the child, and acknowledgement and proof of parentage to confirm the parent-child relationship,” he added.

The law provides forms that can be filled in by the parents, including seeking an order declaring parentage and the reason behind making the application.

“Accordingly, the competent court may provide its decision on issuing a birth registration certificate or not, according to the form attached to the Ministerial Decision as per Article 3 of this Decision. It is important to note that based on the facts of each case, the court may give its decision on a case-to-case basis and therefore the court’s decision may be to accept or reject such a request,” Dr Elhais said.