Children of divorced expats between the law and choosing who to live with

Lamiaa ElKholy
Lamiaa ElKholy
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With divorce comes repercussions, perhaps the heaviest of it all falls upon the shoulders of children.

In the Middle East, particularly, children remain in the custody of their mother until they reach puberty.

It varies between each country at which age a teen may become under the custody of the father. Some laws have been modified to allow teens between the age of 15-18 to choose one of their parents as their guardian.

The peculiar case of divorce among expats where both parents are residents in a foreign country has exasperated the problem as the matter becomes harder for both the parents and children to make the tough choice between living with one parent and not seeing the other for an indefinite period of time.

In many divorce cases among expats when the mother doesn’t work for example, she is required to ensure that financial support continues for her children and in most cases children would choose to live with the parent who is able to provide security financially.

Most mothers lose their residencies as expats once the divorce is finalized, as most of them get the residencies through their husbands and usually it doesn’t grant them permission to work.

It becomes inevitable for divorced expat mothers to either depart without the children, take them along if they can afford to or risk deportation and penalties with no residency.

Some countries provide the mother time to follow up on custody and alimony law suits, but still she must have the means to support her children and afford a lawyer, however, these court battles may last for years.

Children find themselves caught in the middle of these complex and disturbing situations where they have to adapt to a situation that is not of their choice and out of their comfort zones.

With young children, explaining the absence of a father and why other families are not the same becomes a major concern for the mother whether she exits or finds a job to sustain stability for herself and her children.

With older children, they have to deal with change and the psychological pressure of separation, of downgrading and downsizing, which is inevitable even if the father continues to support -if the finances are sorted out, these issues become the mothers’ main fears.

Unfortunately, expat women and their children stand unprotected specially in cases where the divorce papers or “talaq” takes place outside the country of residence.

Usually these kinds of complications happen when divorce is carried out in the country of origin while the family resides abroad as expats.

They become stranded and at risk of being thrown in the street without any prospects of a quick solution.

Perhaps the best solution would be that the law shouldn’t allow men to break wedlock outside the country of residence to ensure women and their children are not at risk of losing their home, schools and their rightful expenses.

Only if the divorce is accepted when issued in the country of residence, and through the boundaries of the law, that women and children would be granted security until they are able to figure out whether it’s in their best interest to resume their status as expats or return back to their homelands.

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