JEDDAH – Custody of children has been one of the major issues facing divorced Saudi women. Some women prefer to stay with their children than ending their troubled marriage because the father wins most custody suits in the Kingdom.
However, there are exceptions. The Personal Status Court in Jeddah issued a verdict recently allowing a Saudi woman to take custody of her 20-year-old daughter, after the judge found that she was living with her male cousins in her father’s house and that the father used to torture her.
“The father also tried to separate her from other daughters and humiliated her in front of her cousins,” Al-Madina Arabic daily reported quoting the court verdict, which came after the mother filed a lawsuit against her former husband for mistreating her daughter.
The father also discriminated between her daughter and his daughters from a second wife, the mother said in her lawsuit.
The judge tried to settle the dispute with the help of the reconciliation committee but the daughter who spoke to the committee insisted that she doesn’t want to continue living with her father. Her parents also refused to accept any reconciliation proposals.
The case was then returned to the court where several hearings took place. The mother told the court that she has a house to live with her daughter. The woman has a number of sons from her previous marriage while her brother stays on the second floor of the same building where she lives.
“I can get protection from a number of relatives who live in the neighborhood. On the other hand, my daughter’s father lives with his mother and does not have a separate house. A number of cousins who are not her mahrams also live in the same house,” she said.
The mother was successful in convincing the judge to grant her custody of her 20-year-old daughter, who does not require her father’s support and is capable of administering her affairs independently.
The girl told the court her willingness to stay with her mother.
The court then allowed the girl to stay with her mother as the best option to ensure her protection, especially when a number of cousins lived with her father in the same house, the paper said.
Commenting on the case, lawyer Saad bin Abid Al-Sharief highlighted the negative impact of divorce on the life of children, being the weakest parties. “Quite often children would find it difficult to decide whether they should stay with their father or mother,” he pointed out.
“The court issues its verdict in custody cases, considering the interests of all parties involved, most importantly sons and daughters and it approves the best option that would ensure their protection and care,” Al-Sharief told Okaz/Saudi Gazette.
The court will be the final authority to decide the children’s future. “When there is more than one child, it tries to unite them giving their custody to either the father or mother to avoid separating them while taking the situation of every family into consideration.”
He said the judge should look into demands, requirements and the wishes of parties involved in the case before taking a final decision. When children reach the age of 18, they can take independent decisions either to stay with their father or mother, he said.
Al-Sharief referred to exceptions. For example, if the mother is married to another person. In such cases, a woman’s former husband can demand custody of children. Secondly, if the father can prove that the mother does not, or incapable to, take care of her children properly. Thirdly, if the mother dies, then the custody of children will go to the maternal grandfather or grandmother, he explained.