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The truth about unmarried couples in Dubai


Dubai is iconic for its legendary landmarks such as the Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab and is known for having the largest population of expatriates (expats) living in the country. With a total population of 80% expats as per mentioned in Global Media Insight (read their full article here), the UAE invites a lot of misconceptions in terms of laws and regulations considering that UAE follows Sharia Law. Here is what you need to know if you are a couple living in Dubai: 

What are the laws in the UAE to pursue unmarried couples?

According to World Services Group Sharia Law is practiced in all countries under the GCC . The UAE however has a unique case having seven Emirates, but both Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah are not part of the federal judicial system. That means they are not subject to the federal Supreme Court. These two emirates have their own court systems and in the case of Dubai, there are 3 main branches: The Court of First Instance (Civil, Criminal and Sharia Courts), The Court of Appeal, and the Court of Cassation. 

Under Sharia Law, marriage is the only legal bond between a man and a woman to establish a relationship and form a family. It is aimed to protect the rights of the couple and their children and by definition of the law, it is illegal for unmarried couples to live together. It stretches as far as being in a hotel room together, or even riding a cab together and public displays of affection. 

What the reality is for unmarried couples who live in the UAE

Despite the practices of Sharia Law, there are unmarried couples that live together in Dubai. This means that it is possible to live together but not permitted.

This however has not stopped who are called Moral Police to answer calls about unmarried couples who share a living space. A lot of these are cited by Gulf News, an example is about 

Toby Caroll, a 32-year-old who was caught in bed with Briton Danielle Spencer by his ex-girlfriend Priscilla Ferreira after their break-up. All three were sent to jail. (read the full story) 

Dubai has a very strong economy in terms of tourism and with the continuous influx of expats coming into the country, it adheres and caters to a more liberal and lax setting. This sentiment can clearly be seen in hotels and event concerts as they often don’t ask different gendered individuals if they are married when they book a room together and display outwardly public affection. Consumption of alcohol is quite visible even in event concerts. 

At the end of the day, the letter of the law is that this is all illegal and it will only take a complaint from someone of authority and you can be brought in for trial in court. 

What can unmarried couple do to live in the UAE together?

If you are a couple who wants to live in Dubai without having the thought of going to jail for simply being with someone you care for, consult with lawyers who are experts in Sharia Law or companies who are proficient in wedding laws and regulations such as us. Different countries and locations have their own governing bodies when it comes to Sharia Law and advice from people who know the law of the land would be key. 

There is no international family law and there is no unified law all over the world when it comes to marriage. Every country has their own approach may it be in the form of cultural traditions or religion. 

Each case is considered unique until proven otherwise and should be treated as such, for this will give you the best case scenario all the time. Consider marrying in other countries such as Georgia which marriage contract is valid in the GCC countries. 

Do you have any friends planning to move together? Send them the article and avoid them problems!

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