Saudi Women to enjoy child custody right even after remarriage

Last year the society received 28 cases of mothers being prevented from seeing their children

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The National Society for Human Rights was successful in helping many divorced mothers to win the right to child custody last year, said Dr. Suhaila Zainul Abidine, a member of the society. “Some of these women received the right even after marriage,” she pointed out.

Zainul Abidine also said the number of civil affairs cases received by the society during the last Hijra year (1437H) was less than that of the previous year as they declined from 151 to 135.

She attributed the fall in number to increasing awareness among women of their rights with many of them directly approaching courts without involving NSHR.

Last year the society received 31 cases regarding alimony, 28 cases of mothers being prevented from seeing their children, 22 custody cases, 18 divorce cases, 14 cases of husbands abandoning their wives or leaving them suspended without divorcing them, and 13 inheritance cases.

Alimony cases topped the list of civil affairs cases last year, reaching 31 followed by women being denied to see their children 28, custody cases 22, divorce cases 18, husbands abandoning their wives and preventing them from marriage 14, denial of inheritance 13, followed by guardianship removal 5 and refusal to acknowledge marriage 4, the paper explained.

“We always try to settle family disputes cordially, especially issues related to custody, alimony, preventing women from marriage,” she said, adding that a good number of cases were settled peacefully with the support of relevant authorities.

“Peaceful settlement of cases is one of the main objectives of NSHR and this is what is required,” Zainul Abidine said. “The Kingdom’s judicial system takes care of the interest of children who prefer to be under the custody of their mothers,” she added.

Zainul Abidine praised judges for issuing verdicts in favor of women while dealing with custody cases, adding that it would benefit children. However, she pointed out that the verdicts issued by judges on the issue differed from one judge to the other based on their outlook.

“There is no basis and specific rule to settle civil affairs cases,” she added.

The NSHR official emphasized the need for a community indicator regarding civil affairs cases in the Kingdom. There are a number of agencies such as the Justice Ministry, Family Security Program, Human Rights Commission and Department of Protection at Ministry of Labor and Social Development that prepare annual reports and statistics on civil affairs cases.

Lamees Al-Harthi, a legal adviser and in charge of inheritance at Majed Garoub Law Firm, commended courts for issuing verdicts in favor of divorced women in custody cases, even after their remarriage. “In the past women used to lose their right to custody soon after (second) marriage.”

Al-Harthi said the move reflected a change in the approach of Saudi judiciary toward custody cases. Children will have the right to select their mothers for custody and care. “Appeal courts have endorsed the verdicts issued by lower courts in favor of married women to get child custody.”

However, she pointed out that the new husband of the woman should approve her custody of children from her previous marriage. The court should also be convinced that the father is not suitable to take care of his children from previous marriage, Al-Harthi said.

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