In what is largely considered a sign of increasing awareness among Saudi women, brides-to-be have started to focus more on divorce settlement than on dowry details in order to secure their financial rights in case of separation, local media reported Wednesday.
This trend has also proved beneficial to the girls’ suitors. Young men starting their lives are happy to put less money in a dowry as this lightens their conjugal financial burden, the Saudi newspaper al-Riyadh reported.
According to Islam, the groom has to pay a dowry before the marriage, which is considered a gift from the man to his future wife and which the bride usually uses to buy furnish her new house.
The divorce settlement, whose amount is written in the marriage contract, is to be paid by the husband upon separation and is usually much less than the dowry. This settlement is also given case of the husband’s death.
When Khaled Mohamed got married, his father-in-law asked him to put aside a large sum for the divorce settlement.
“I find this very normal especially with current circumstances,” he told the paper. “Divorce rates are becoming much higher.”
Mohamed argued that, in all cases, the divorce settlement is not what makes a marriage work or fail.
One girl recounted a story illustrating how important a substantial divorce settlement is.
“After I got married, I started discovering things about my husband that I did not like, so I decided to get a divorce. The divorce settlement was a partial compensation for the emotional damage inflicted upon me.”
However, some youth argue that in many cases the girls’ parents take advantage of suitors asking for illogically large divorce settlement.
“In one case, a girl’s divorce settlement was two kilograms of pure gold,” a man told the paper. “When her husband decided to divorce her, he nearly went broke trying to pay the settlement.”
According to this man, this case also proves that no matter how expensive the divorce settlement is, a man will not stay in a marriage that makes him unhappy. This, he argued, shows that parents’ attempts to prevent divorces through bigger settlements are doomed to fail.
Dr. Medwah al-Medwah, head of the Correction and Rehabilitation Department at the Aseer prison, believes that allocating more money to divorce settlements is generally beneficial for both parties.
“It releases the groom from part of the financial burden of marriage and provides the girl with security in case the husband proves later to be reckless.”
However, Medwah added, problems begin when the wife uses the divorce settlement as a means of putting pressure on the husband or humiliating him.
Sheikh Mohamed al-Dabbash, Preaching Consultant at the Ministry of Social Affairs, praised the attention given lately to divorce settlement and called upon the media to play a role in promoting it amongst youths.
“However, this does not guarantee the wife's financial security as a husband unwilling to pay for a divorce settlement can simply treat his wife in a way that pushes her to ask for a divorce. Then, she loses the right to the settlement.”
Sociologist Nayef al-Sebaei, head of the Guidance and Counseling Center at King Fahd University in Dammam, agreed.
“If the husband is very rich, he will not care how much money he pays to divorce his wife and if he is not rich, he might leave the matter pending either until he finds a way to pay or until the wife is fed up and asks for a divorce.”
As divorce rates keep rising in Saudi Arabia, stranger reasons for ending marriages surface, some of which might seem trivial yet could obviously be detrimental to a marriage.
In one case, a wife decided to end her 15-year marriage, which resulted in seven children, because she was fed up with her husband’s exaggerated interest in a soap opera actress. When she could no longer take his constant flirtatious remarks about the actress, they had a fight and she left the house.
In another case, a man was waiting in a Malaysian airport for his wife to come out of the bathroom. When she was late, he was afraid to miss the flight, so he left her and went back home. When she realized what had happened, she requested a divorce.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).