Divorced Saudi mothers given new child custody rights

Saudi mothers would previously have to file a lawsuit to get custody of their children

Divorced women in Saudi Arabia will no longer be required to file a lawsuit to gain custody of their children, according to the kingdom’s justice minister.

Sheikh Walid Al-Samaani told Saudi Press Agency that mothers had the right to custody of their children in cases where there is no conflict.

In a circular issued to all courts, officials have been instructed that the mother may submit a request to prove the custody of her children without the need for legal action.

“If the children are proved to be in the custody of the mother, the Judicial Department shall consider the validity of the custody and decide on its application, as required by law and order, without the need to institute a claim in the application as is the case for all the authorisations referred to in Part XIII of the legal proceedings,” according to the report.

Mothers will also have the right to carry out formal procedures related to their children at government departments, embassies, education offices and schools including applying for their children’s passports.

In addition they can collect all child support and maintenance payments from government and civil entities but cannot travel outside of Saudi Arabia without a judge’s permission.

Lawyer Majed Garoub told Arab News that women would previously have to file a lawsuit for the right to custody of their children in an often lengthy process that could cost a significant amount of money.

“It was a great strain for the mother, the father would be contesting her over custody, and the case would go the the court of appeal, and it could start all over again,” he was quoted as saying.

“However, now it is radically different. The priority of custody of children goes automatically to the mother.”

The change comes as part of efforts to improve the rights of Saudi women, who have been granted new freedom, including the right to start a business without their male guardian’s permission, under kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform programme.

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