Most of the cases are caused by financial disputes

Divorce affects everyone in a family and in Kuwait is governed by the law of the married couple’s religion and sect. There are Sunni and Shia family courts as well as a means for Christian couples to divorce. The process can be lengthy but the growing number of divorce cases suggest that is no deterrent.

Divorce: By the numbers

A recent study on divorce rates in Kuwait concluded that a major cause for splits was the extra benefits received by divorcees.

The annual divorce rate among Kuwaitis increased during the period from 2005 to 2015. The highest divorce rate of Kuwaiti males was 4.5 percent in the years 2013 and 2014, while the highest divorce rate of non-Kuwaiti males was 0.9 percent in 2011. The lowest divorce rate of Kuwaiti males was 3.4 percent in 2006, and the lowest divorce rate of non-Kuwaiti males was 0.7 in the years 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2015.

In 2015, the number of divorce cases of Kuwaitis (men and women) was 4,435 cases. The number of divorce cases of Kuwaiti men married to non- Kuwaiti women was 870, while the number of divorce cases of non-Kuwaiti men married to Kuwaiti women was 454 cases.

The highest number of divorce cases of Kuwait men was 499 in March 2015, while the highest number of divorce cases of non-Kuwaiti men was 184 in June 2015.

By age groups in 2015, the highest number of divorces among Kuwaiti men was 1,389 cases in the age group 25- 29 years, while the lowest was 32 cases in the age group of 15-19 years. The highest number of divorces among Kuwaiti women was 1,214 cases in the age group 25-29 years, while the lowest was 163 cases in the age group of 15-19 years.

Kuwait Times spoke to Dalia Al-Faraj, a divorce lawyer practicing for more than seven years. “We have a high divorce rate in Kuwait, and there is a need to address the issue promptly. Most of the cases are caused by financial disputes, but we also have 10 percent divorce cases linked to adultery,” she said.

How to get a divorce

About the process of divorce in Kuwait for Muslims and Christians, Faraj said: “Islamic law allows husbands to divorce their wives by stating “I divorce you” three times before it becomes irrevocable. After the first two utterances, the husband may nullify the divorce within 90 days, but the third time makes it final, and he cannot remarry her unless she first marries and is divorced by another man.

“The husband or wife can file a case against each other in the court, where the court will offer them the services of a marriage counselor for free to fix their marriage, for both Kuwaitis and non-Kuwaitis. If both sides insist, they only have to go to a sheikh in court to be officially divorced. Or else they can file a case called damage of divorce, where one of them wins the case to get all the rights.”

Shiite law stipulates that a man should appear before the judge for the divorce to be official. Sunni law makes it easier for a man to divorce, as he only needs to record the divorce with the registrar of the personal affairs court. If the wife disagrees with the nullification of the divorce, she must go to court to receive a formal divorce.

“Women in both Sunni and Shiite marriages can divorce their husbands. A divorce initiated by the wife is final. Under Sunni law, a wife may cite a variety of reasons in support of divorce, but both Sunni and Shiite laws do not allow a woman to divorce her husband solely because he married another woman, unless specified in their marriage contract,” Faraj said.

The consequences

In most divorce cases, men, by law, are required to pay monthly alimony payments for each child born of their marriage. These payments are based on the husband’s salary and takes into account his financial abilities and obligations. The payments continue for girls until marriage and for boys till they reach 18. The husband will also have to provide funds to cover housing, transportation and other household expenses.

Regarding Christians, Faraj said: “Christians residing in Kuwait can get married or divorced in a church or under sharia law in court. The church will offer details of documentation, fees and other requirements, but it needs the signature of a notary at the ministry of justice.”

Faraj noted that divorce may take a long time depending on the circumstances. If there is physical abuse or if kids are involved, the judge usually will not look into the divorce without referring to a marriage counselor first. There is a team of experienced professional counselors that try to make both parties work on the marriage. Sometimes a partner doesn’t want to cooperate or both parties agree not to go for counseling. In this case, a paper is signed by both parties and is taken back to the court, where divorce proceedings then begin.

By Faten Omar