Imagine getting divorced and not knowing it. Before 2019, this sort of secretive legal maneuver happened from time to time in Saudi Arabia. In January, though, the country’s Ministry of Justice ruled that women must receive a text message when a court grants a husband a divorce. The new regulation, the ministry said, “ensures women get their (alimony) rights when they’re divorced.” In the past in the male-dominated Kingdom, men secretly divorced their wives to avoid paying alimony, a move that allowed them to control their ex-wives’ financial situation and deprive them of custody rights. It also prevented them from getting re-married.
The situation in Saudi Arabia:
- The court-ordered texts will give ex-wives a certificate number and information about where they can access the documents. A website will also give women a way to check their marital status.
- In 2018, the Saudi government relaxed custody laws for women slightly. They no longer have to file a petition -- a process that often took years -- to get custody of their children. It’s now automatic, unless there’s a dispute between the parents.
- The Kingdom has also allowed women to drive, attend sporting events, start businesses, and join the military. While these may sound like basic rights, they are significant changes in Saudi society.