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Overview: Family Law in GCC

Published on : 14 Nov 2021

Family Law in GCC

A Family is formed by considering several factors like the social, political, and monetary.

Similarly, there is a legal design in framing a family. In a net shell a family law covers two fundamental fields one is the relationship between spouses and the other is the relationship between parents and their children. For many years Muslim nations were aiming to change the rules governing marriage and divorce.


In Kuwait, family and personal law are governed by religious courts. The cases will be judged only by the code of law not by any previous judgments. The courts will never be influenced by precedents. The Kuwait family law contains 347 articles and the code was enacted in 1984. It consists of codes to deal with marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance. To handle family and personal matters there are different courts for both the Sunni and Shi’a.

In Kuwait, Muslim marriage is an agreement between the groom and the representative of the bride’s family. The marriage is formalized in the presence of an authorized person and two male witnesses.  The bride’s representative can be her father, brother, uncle the officiator of the marriage can also sever as her legal representative.  The officiator prepares the agreement and this is signed by the groom, the bride’s representative, the witnesses, and the officiator. The agreement also includes the details of the number of wives the groom has as the Islamic religion allows a man to have up to four 6wives of he is able to support them equally. It also contains the dowry amount.

In Muslim countries the Islamic law allows husbands to divorce their wives just by “I divorce you.” Without any reasons   Under Shi’a law, to get a divorce officially the man must appear before a judge. Under Sunni law, divorce needs to be recorded only with the registrar of the personal affairs court. In both systems judges usually grant a divorce petition after giving reasonable opportunities to reconcile out of court and to seek counselling before deciding on divorce. The husbands are required to pay monthly alimony for each child born of their marriage.  In custody issues favors the mother for small children and Girls to live with their mother until they get married.  Boys can choose after attaining puberty whether to reside with their mother or father. 


In Bahrain, both Sunnis and Shias have their own courts that deal with personal and family issues. The Family Law comprises of all matters arising in connection with marriage like dowry, maintenance, parentage, separation, and custody. Influential sections of the religious establishment oppose a codified family law, while the government has recently demonstrated a lack of interest in pursuing the matter.

The main problem is that there are rules and norms but that they are not codified. For getting a divorce, women also need to face significant legal, financial, and societal difficulties. The Sunni men announce their divorce orally, while Shia men record their intention in writing. A Bahraini man can divorce his wife for any reason while women can only request divorce under specific circumstances but it is possible without the burden of evidence. A judicial divorce takes years during this time women are not supported financially.

Divorced Shia women retain physical custody of their sons until they are seven and their daughters until they are nine. The new personal law allows Sunni mothers to retain custody of daughters until they are 17 years of age or married whichever comes first and sons until they are 15 Even if the mother has custody, the father remains as the children’s legal guardian. For custody of children, the Bahraini courts consider the religion, permanent residence, income of parents. The parents can visit their child by prior arrangement of the competent court. 

Saudi Arabia

The jurisdiction of family-related matters falls in Sharia Court. Family related matters include marriage, divorce, children and inheritance. The laws are not codified. The government promotes polygamy as an Islamic value program. Polygamy is limited to four wives for men at any one time. As a result of oil wealth, the practice of polygamy has increased even among educated Hejazis. In 2001, the Grand Mufti the highest religious authority issued an opinion, that to fight against spinsterhood polygamy is very much essential in the context of Islamic Value. Later in 2019 marriages under the age of 15 were banned and prior permission from the specialized court was necessary for the marriages under the age of 18.

Men have the right to divorce their wives without any legal justification.  The husband has to provide financial support for the divorced wife.  A woman can only obtain a divorce with the consent of her husband and, it is very difficult to obtain a judicial divorce. The fathers will have the right to have custody of sons from the age of 7 and daughters from the age of 9.


 Article 17 in Oman’s Basic Law gives liberty for women to marry freely but the Personal Status Law will be the authority in dealing with guardianship, child custody and inheritance. According to Sharia law, if a Muslim man can afford the expense to take care of four wives he can get married to four wives. A Muslim woman can restrict her husband from marrying other women by entering a clause in the marriage agreement.

A man can divorce by simply saying ‘I divorce you’ three times. But in the case of a women even if she has good reason to seek a divorce she must go to a court. The husband is responsible to give maintenance to the divorced wife and his children from the marriage. The man can claim only after the son attains the age of ten.


As per Sharia Law, a Muslim man can marry four wives if he is able to take care of them materially. In Qatar, the Muslim marriages are performed at the Sharia Court. A married Qatari Muslim man seeking a divorce by saying ‘I divorce you’ three times to his wife. The husband has to give maintenance to a divorced wife and his children from the marriage. In Qatari courts the provisions for divorce and family law matters are dealt within the code Family Law 22 of 2006.

 United Arab Emirates                                   

The UAE had improvised its family law. And it was announced on 7th November 2020. The crisp of the amendment is that the Islamic law of the Sharia will no more be used for dealing family law for the non-citizens.

There are many amendments to the country’s family law. Law No. 28 of 2005 was overruled resulting in Decree-Law No. 5 of 2020 on August 28, 2020. These provisions look in the following matters. The financial support by the husband to wife, divorce by proxy, arbitration between the husband and wife and financial compensation. Earlier, Sharia law was applied to Muslim marriages, child custody issues, inheritance, maintenance etc. Till the amendment, the law allowed for non-citizens to be given option to select Sharia for their divorce proceedings or to request the court to follow the law of their home country.


 Family is formed by various social, political, and monetary aspects. All GCC follows Sharia law for managing the matters related to the family. The husband is given more privileges than the wife. The Man can easily divorce his wife proclaiming Talaq and he can marry four wives if he is able to take care of them and their households. Now, these nations are aiming to change the rules governing marriage and divorce.


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