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Although Not Illegal, Cohabiting Couples May Face Legal and Societal Challenges

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Pavitra Shetty

Published on March 7, 2024, 08:49:09

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uae, living together, unmarried couples, legal

In the UAE, living together as an unmarried couple is not explicitly illegal. Recent legal reforms have removed criminal implications, offering a more comfortable environment for cohabiting couples. However, it is crucial to note that while not illegal, the UAE legal system does not grant unmarried couples the same rights and recognition as married counterparts.

Acknowledging the growing number of tourists from Western countries who may seek investment opportunities and prolonged stays in the UAE, the government has embarked on a comprehensive series of legal reforms.

These reforms represent a significant legal evolution, tackling key issues such as divorce, inheritance laws, and addressing sensitive matters like honour killings. Aimed at improving the quality of life for expatriates in the UAE, these initiatives include legal amendments concerning live-in relationships.

The concept of living together in the UAE frequently ignites the interest of both expatriates and residents, sparking uncertainty and prompting a plethora of questions regarding its legality and societal acceptance.

Let's delve into these common inquiries and explore the experience of living together in the UAE, covering legal aspects, societal perspectives, and essential considerations.

Is Living Together in the UAE Legal?

Living together as an unmarried couple is not expressly prohibited in the UAE. The implementation of recent legislation has effectively eliminated its classification as a criminal offense, thereby creating a more comfortable environment for couples in informal partnerships to stay in the UAE.

However, it's vital to recognise that the legal system in the UAE does not recognise unmarried couples in the same way it does to married ones. This absence of legal recognition may influence several facets of life, encompassing residency, inheritance rights and healthcare access.

What are the Implications?

Living together without being married can carry legal consequences. Unmarried partners do not possess the same legal rights and protections as married individuals. This disparity can affect various aspects, such as the accessibility of joint bank accounts, shared assets and specific healthcare benefits for unmarried couples.

What are the Societal Attitudes?

In the UAE, renowned for its cultural diversity and tolerance, societal attitude towards unmarried cohabitation can vary. Marriage is highly valued in the UAE, and certain traditional communities may view living together without formal marriage differently. 

Though not illegal, unmarried couples may face challenges regarding legal recognition and societal acceptance.
By understanding the legal landscape, respecting cultural norms and seeking appropriate guidance, unmarried couples can navigate their living together journey in the UAE with clarity.

(The writer is a legal associate at Dubai-based NYK Law Firm)

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