Cohabitation in Dubai without Marriage: Rules and Restrictions

Cohabitation in Dubai without Marriage: Rules and Restrictions

The United Arab Emirates is a Muslim country, and its legislation is based not only on civil law, but also on Sharia. However, in an effort to attract more tourists and expats to the country, the authorities are gradually easing some restrictions in relation to unmarried couples in Dubai. One change to the Criminal Code concerns unmarried couples living together in Dubai and other Emirates. So can unmarried couples living together in Dubaiand Abu Dhabi? Read on to discover more.

Which Unmarried Couples Can Live Together?

Up until 2020, cohabitation of unmarried opposite-sex couples was illegal in the UAE and punishable by one year in prison. A new federal law was adopted in 2020, which decriminalised consensual relationships outside of marriage. The new law stipulates that two unmarried partners of the opposite sex and over the age of 18 can live together in Dubai, it is absolutely legal.

Photo: lookstudio (Freepik)

Restrictions remain for couples where at least one of the partners is officially married to a third party. For example, if a married woman leaves her husband and starts living with a new partner before the divorce is finalised, her husband has the right to file a lawsuit. In that case, both the wife and her new partner risk six months imprisonment.

The same complaint can be filed by a legal guardian, is living together with my partner is permitted in Abu Dhabi? Any partner with a guardian must obtain the written consent of the guardian before living with their partner in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or any other Emirate.

All of the above applies only to heterosexual couples. Homosexuality is still illegal in the UAE so cohabitation in Dubai of same-sex people is prohibited by laws.

Buying and Renting Housing for Unmarried Couples

Although the law now accepts cohabiting unmarried partners, remember that this is a relatively new thing and some locals and institutions have yet to change their attitude.

Additionally, whereas Dubai cohabitation law has changed, others have not. Although it has become possible for unmarried couples to live together in Dubai and other UAE cities, they still face difficulties buying and renting residential property.

The owner of a residential building or the company that manages it both have the right to establish various regulations concerning their tenants. For example, in compound-format communities with private guarded territory, prospective tenants often go through a thorough selection process and interview.

However, all construction and property management companies in Dubai are subordinate to RERA, the Real Estate Regulatory Agency. If these companies reject an unmarried couple in living together in Dubai on these grounds, they must justify this decision to RERA.

It is not advisable to hide your marital status from your management company, as this may entail unforeseen consequences. For example, if your neighbours see and take a picture of you on the balcony or in the yard holding hands or embracing, this may be regarded as a violation of public morality, and that, in turn, is punishable by a fine of 1000 to 50,000 AED ($270 to $14,000). Society usually turns a blind eye when married couples do this, even though Sharia prohibits public displays of affection, but unmarried couples living in uae can expect much harsher treatment.

What Happens if Unmarried Couples Have Children?

The same UAE federal law has introduced a new provision on children born to unmarried couples living together. If both partners of an unmarried cohabiting couple recognise themselves as the parents and obtain the child's official documents (a birth certificate and an identity card) in accordance with the UAE law, there will be no negative legal consequences. But if the unmarried father does not recognise his child, this entails a punishment in the form of imprisonment for at least two years for him.

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In a Nutshell

If an unmarried couple has a child, they should apply for the appropriate documents immediately. All in all, if you visit Dubai or another emirate you need to follow federal laws and rules for couples in order to avoiding problems.

Cover photo: Racool_studio (Freepik)

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