Divorce in Saudi Arabia: Who Gets Custody?

In spite of all efforts to preserve the sanctity of marriage, divorce continues to rise in the Kingdom whether with a Saudi or non-Saudi spouse. In the Kingdom, divorce and custody of children is based on the Islamic or Shariah law. Any child born with a Saudi father is viewed as a Saudi citizen and naturally a muslim. When an American woman marries a Saudi man and lives in the Kingdom, Islamic/Shariah law prevails. The US embassy does not intervene in child custody disputes between Americans and Saudis.


In the case of a divorce, if an American woman is married to a Saudi, she likely loses her sponsor (her husband) and therefore required to leave the Kingdom. Because under Islamic law the (Saudi) children are awarded to the father so in many cases the American woman must leave the Kingdom without her children.


Typically under Shariah law, a mother (muslim or non-muslim) in the Kingdom can maintain custody of her male children until the age of nine and maintain custody of female children until the age of seven after which custody is reverted to the father. If a divorced mother continues to have custody beyond those ages may depend on the father and the relationship between the divorced couple. And naturally the Saudi courts wish to have any child of divorced parents in the Kingdom continue to be raised in an Islamic environment.


Determination of visitation rights and custodial rights when a Saudi man and woman are divorced from one another also is influenced by the relationship between the divorced couple, since the man will usually have custody in accordance to Shariah.


While dated from 2003, this International Herald Tribune article is an informative read about an American woman who had been married to a Saudi and involved in a custody dispute:



For further information on divorce and child custody, the US State Department has a very good link:



Also the web site Expert Law provides much information and details about Shariah law, divorce and child custody:



Lastly, if one needs to identify a lawyer in the Kingdom, this site provides a list of law firms: http://www.hg.org/firms-saudiarabia.html



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,277 other followers

%d bloggers like this: