Article Saudi Arabia: New Law Regulating Family Matters Promulgated

On March 9, 2022, the king of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, issued Royal Decree No. M/73 (the decree), promulgating the first legal instrument to regulate family matters in the kingdom (the legislation). In addition, the decree includes a provision mandating 18 years as the minimum age of consent for both men and women. (Decree No. M/73, art. 2.)

Contents of the Legislation

The legislation, which consists of 252 provisions based on the interpretations of Islamic law, regulates family matters in the kingdom, mainly issues relating to engagement, marriage, divorce, and inheritance. According to article 251, any matter not addressed by the legislation is subject to the relevant provision of Sharia (Islamic law).

Rights of Women

The legislation reinforces the minimum age requirement under the decree by barring marriage officiators from solemnizing marriages involving parties who are less than 18 years old. (Art. 9.)

The legislation also accords a woman the right to choose whom she marries so long as he is Muslim. (Art. 14.) The law does not mention other factors that make a man unqualified to be married. According to legal authors, in the past, the brothers, uncles, cousins, and sometimes the sister’s husband had the right to file lawsuits to divorce the wife from her husband on the grounds that he was unqualified to marry her because of his lineage. Under the current law, such a right does not exist.

In addition, the legislation accords women some financial and property rights in marriage. The law specially emphasizes that the dowry belongs to the woman only and that the husband has no right to force her to spend it in a certain way. (Art. 38.) Additionally, the law grants the wife the right to refuse to enter and move to the marital home until she receives her dowry. (Art. 43.) The law also obligates the husband to meet all his wife’s financial needs even if she is rich or has her own financial resources. (Art. 44(1).) The husband must pay for his wife’s food, clothing, housing, and basic necessities. (Art. 45.)

Further, it expands a woman’s right regarding child custody. Under the new law, women can exercise custody over their children for a longer period than was the case before. Previously, the wife had custody rights over her male children until they turned seven years old and over her female children until they turned nine years old. Under the new law, the wife’s custody rights end when her male and female children turn 15 years old. However, after turning 15, children can choose to remain under their mother’s custody until they turn 18 years old if they wish. (Art. 135(1).) Child custody for the husband ends when the children turn 18 as well. (Art. 135(2).)

DNA Testing

For the first time, the legislation grants the family court authority to order DNA testing to examine the parental relationship between the biological father and the child. A court may order DNA testing if the following two conditions are present: (1) the child must be of unknown parents, and (2) the age difference between the biological father and the child is acceptable by the court. (Art. 70.)

Registration Requirement

Finally, the law obligates both the person officiating the marriage and the marriage parties to register the marriage. (Art. 8(1).) Similarly, it requires the husband to register a divorce within 15 days from the day he divorces his wife. (92(1).)

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Saudi Arabia: New Law Regulating Family Matters Promulgated. 2022. Web Page. https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2022-07-17/saudi-arabia-new-law-regulating-family-matters-promulgated/.

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(2022) Saudi Arabia: New Law Regulating Family Matters Promulgated. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2022-07-17/saudi-arabia-new-law-regulating-family-matters-promulgated/.

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Saudi Arabia: New Law Regulating Family Matters Promulgated. 2022. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2022-07-17/saudi-arabia-new-law-regulating-family-matters-promulgated/>.