Law can be a very negative career and that is because when things get tough, the toughest get a lawyer! Something that is very difficult for many lawyers is dealing with family disputes. No one wants to see a family split up or argue. It is a horrible sight and I can only imagine how much harder it is for the family members to find a lawyer and understand the actions and consequences. I am not a professional at family law but there is an increasing concern as divorce statistics rise to unprecedented levels in Kuwait. I have been getting a lot of inquiries and therefore I decided to put together the most common basic concerns and answer them from a practical point of view and not necessary theoretical and as always I have carefully chosen simpler words that are not necessary diplomatic or legal, but are understood by the general layman and therefore the most amount of readers can benefit from this article.
Divorce without notice
Question: My husband and I split up a long time ago. He keeps threatening me with divorce. I heard in Kuwait a man can divorce a woman without her presence is this true? How do I know if a divorce has been filed against me?
Fajer: When one of the parties involved files for divorce, the other party is notified through an actual physical paper that I will refer to as a notice. The notice is delivered to your address were you will need to sign that you have received the documents. If, for some reason the notice did not reach you, or let’s say someone signed on your behalf, you could always go to the Ministry of Justice and check if there is any case against you and this goes for all other cases and not just divorce.
Length and counselors
Question: I also heard that divorce generally takes a very long time, is that true? What should I expect?
Fajer: It really depends on the circumstances. If there was any physical abuse, if there are kids involved, the court where you married, if the husband and wife are agreeing to disagree or not and so on.
Something to keep in mind though is that the judge will not look into the divorce without referring you to a marriage counselor first. There is a team of experienced professional counselors that aim to have both parties work on the marriage. Sometimes a partner doesn’t want to cooperate or both parties agree not to go to counseling, if that’s the case then a paper is signed by both parties and is taken back to the court where the proceedings would start. I know quite a few married couple who were determined to obtain a divorce but came out of the marriage counseling program to reevaluate their marriage.
After counseling the case is taken to court, the divorce settlement is purely for the divorce, it won’t include other disputes like custody of a child, money settlements and so on. If there is no cooperation from both sides if can take a really long time, up to a year, if not longer.
Dowry and settlements
Question: When we first married I was told that I will receive a dowry from my husband and also a payment of money should we get divorced, is this true?
Fajer: This depends on what you agreed upon when you got married. It should be stated clearly on your marriage certificate. For example let’s say you agreed to KD 1,000 as a dowry and another KD 1,000 should you get divorced. These amounts are to be paid by the husband to his wife. If your husband did not pay you, you can file a lawsuit to obtain these amounts. Please note that this is a separate case all together. Separate of the divorce, therefore most lawyers will charge extra fees to do so.
Expat wives and visa issues
Question: I am not a Kuwaiti citizen but I have been married to a Kuwait man and now that we are filing for divorce I am worried about my legal status/visa, how can I keep my visa, if my husband is no longer my sponsor?
This question also depends on whether you have children and whether you are their sponsor, then obtaining a visa should be easier. But let’s assume you don’t have children and once the divorce is finalized your former husband will no longer be your sponsor, what can you do? Unfortunately in this scenario you will have to obtain a working visa to stay in Kuwait. You will have a few months after your divorce to change your status.
I hope the questions above helped answering the basic inquiries of divorce, I will get into the details of child custody in a near future post.
By Attorney Fajer Ahmed
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